Grand Rapids launches ‘Walking School Bus’ for student safety

Campus Elementary Walking School Bus
Campus Elementary students participate in the Walking School Bus program. (Dec. 1, 2016)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The “Walking School Bus” made its inaugural trip through a neighborhood in southeast Grand Rapids Thursday, aimed at keeping young students safe during their trip to school.

The Safe Routes to School Committee comprised of parents, neighbors, staff and representatives of the Kent School Services Network, Oakdale Neighbors and the Kent County Health Department helped start Campus Elementary School’s new program. While parent leaders say the initiative helps kids get excited about going to school, the key focus is safety, especially on dark winter mornings.

“If it has anything to do with the kids, I’m up for it, and especially if it has to do with their safety. I will get up as early as needed to make sure they get to school on time and safe,” said Ashley Pinder, supervisor for the Walking School Bus.

Among those on the first Walking School Bus was Sarah Pearson’s daughter. Pearson said she used to walk her daughter to school on her own, but she joined the group Thursday so her daughter could meet more people and promote safety.

“I see a lot of kids walking alone and I can’t just… snatch up some other kid and bring them. But at the same time, I’m loving this, that they can all get to school safe,” said Pearson.

Grand Rapids Public Schools officials say the program is also a great method to bolster attendance.

Parents and organizers said they were impressed by how Thursday’s walk went and they expect more routes to pop up for Campus Elementary.

The Walking School Bus meets every Thursday at 7:30 a.m. at the corner of Neland and Thomas streets.