The Walk’n Rollers program at the Linwood E. Howe Elementary School in Culver City, California, now in its eighth year, has many parents and children participating in a walking school bus every Friday morning.
The Safe Routes to School programs were established in 2005 at the federal level to, provide communities and schools the means to have children participate in active lifestyles and have fewer cars on the road. That is especially for during morning school traffic and when they don’t have the option of riding school buses due to walking distance regulations or budget cuts.
States such as California have since expanded the concept of walking and biking school buses as organized means of students getting to and from their neighborhood schools.
In 2012, Culver City was awarded a four-year $500,000 Federal SRTS Non-Infrastructure grant to fund a city-wide education and encouragement program. The goal was to create a sustainable program for Culver City Unified School District’s five elementary schools and middle school. The Walk’n Rollers meet on different days of the week, or at least once per month.
Jim Shanman, Culver City’s Safe Routes to School coordinator and a parent of a local student, said he founded the program due to the lack of options offered for children to engage in that promoted walking and biking to school.
Participating children are provided with an anonymous, free bar code tag that tracks their individual attendance at each event. The tag works like an electronic raffle ticket used to reward classes who walk to school.
The number of children who participate varies from school to school, but the walking school bus for Linwood E. Howe begins with about 15 children who meet at Carlson Park and can have as many as 60 children join in during the half mile walk to school.
The schools offer classes that teach students bicycle and pedestrian education during physical education, as well as host festivals for the community, families and students to learn bicycle skills from trained instructors.
Currently, the district and the city are working together to sustain the Walk’n Rollers program and to keep the existing leadership in place after the grant expires.