Walking School Bus Pilot Program

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Administrators are looking to start a new program to help student walkers get to school safely.

Ten-year-old Dalton Joyner walks to and from school almost every day, but it's not always a peaceful walk.

"The kids in our yards, fighting in front of our houses, in the middle of the street,” said parent, Heather Vecchione.

Those types of scary situations are why Dalton's mother supports a national program, new to District 205, called the walking school bus. Students who live in the same neighborhood all walk to school together, with several adult supervisors.

It's not just bullying and fighting that's a concern, it's the physical walk to school. On one sidewalk across the street from Lewis Lemon Elementary School, there's grass and twigs that cover the sidewalk which can be a major safety concern.

Snow covered-sidewalks will pose another hazard, but the city will work with the district to clear walkways and make sure they're safe. Administrators say the program will also help increase attendance.

"When students aren't getting to school it's often because parents don't have transportation to get them there so we really want to provide resources for families,” said Alex Brewington, Supervisor of Social Work Services.

Vecchione says kids may even meet other students and make new friends.

"It steps outside the boundaries of them going to school not talking to each other and I think it'd be very positive for the community."

The walking school bus would also help with traffic and dangerous neighborhoods. The district will pilot the program at one school after spring break, most likely Lewis Lemon. The Winnebago County Health Department has received a grant to pay for two part-time walkers and a coordinator to get started, but no word yet on how to pay for the program long term.

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