The walking school bus shows no signs of slowing down.
The initiative is a national one instituted in communities all around and was brought to Knox County essentially via the Galesburg on Track project.
A walking school bus is a group of children walking to school together accompanied by adults.
Screened volunteers walk and supervise, so kids get to interact with community leaders, socialize with each other and grab some exercise all before the class bell.
Galesburg Fire Chief Tom Simkins says that last year they had a lot of help.
“I think people fell off because all of the slots were taken. [Then we got] a bunch of Knox College students that came too,” Simkins tells WGIL. “So, we had plenty of people doing the route. Now that we’re expanding we’re hoping to get all those volunteers back.”
Sara Robison, who leads one of Silas’ two routes, and a parent herself say there are even some less obvious benefits, besides the exercise.
“My sons are in second and kindergarten and last year when we were walking they got to meet and hang out with kids that are older while going to school. So, that was really nice too. [It gave them ] an opportunity for friendships with kids outside of their grade.”
The whole thing started last fall at Silas Willard, to test if could launch this as a county-wide initiative.
Then it went on to launch in Abingdon last spring, spearheaded by former District 276 School Board member, and Galesburg Handivan Coordinator Dedra Mannon.
Families can organize a carpool, minus the cars, and effectively create their own walking school bus.
Robison also says there’s no reason parents can’t drop their kids off a little early at the walking school bus drop site, getting some exercise and socialization time before school.
Simkins laments that kids today seem less interested in physical activity than they used to be.
The official routes are usually about a half-mile.
The drop site for King is at a picnic table behind Lombard Middle School, for Steele, it’s Galesburg Water Division on Main Street, and Silas Willard has sites at Watson-Thomas Funeral Home and Midwest Uniform Supply.
For all King and Steele schools, drop-off times for the walking school bus are 8:15 a.m., and 8:20 p.m. for Silas Willard.
Abingdon also has a route that starts at the public library. Soon Knoxville will have a route up and running as well.