Realizing the challenges faced by students who have to walk to school in the winter, an organization in Vermont arranged for the Winooski School District to receive school bus services as part of a winter transportation pilot program.
"For youth in Winooski, getting to school is a particularly pressing challenge, especially in bad winter weather. Going to school on foot can mean that students arrive wet, tired and sometimes late," the Parents and Youth for Change organization said in a press release. “This especially impacts families who don’t own cars, which is 30 percent of Winooski households.”
Organization spokesman Infinite Culcleasure told STN that the program was organized after “years of organizing, house meetings, listening campaigns, online and hard copy petitions, testimonies at school board meetings, and participatory action research meetings with transportation experts.”
The result was that Winooski School District began contracting with nearby South Burlington School District for two school buses that each make two runs. The bus service, which is free to WSD students, started on Jan. 16 and runs through March 30.
“The feedback has been good,” said Culcleasure. “The buses have been full.”
The district called for parents and community members to serve as bus monitors, but Culcleasure said that there have not been many volunteers. That’s because people do not want to commit to the daily schedule.
While Winooski is a small town that is only about 1.5 miles long, Culcleasure noted that traffic becomes quite congested when all the parents are trying to drop off or pick up their children at the same time. At a meeting held to check the progress of the transportation pilot program, parents shared that they appreciated not having to endure that rush hour traffic. The congestion around district schools was also reported to be lessened due to the bus service.
“It’s in the budget again for next year,” said Culcleasure. “We have at least two years so we can look at some data and try to ascertain if it’s making a difference, and what kind of difference that would be.”
Editor's note: Read more about how school districts handle challenges brought on by winter weather in our March issue.