'Walking School Bus' pilot program starts in Avondale

"Walking School Bus" idea rolled out

CINCINNATI - Iyanta Burns already walks her children to Rockdale Academy inAvondale, but this fall her entourage may grow as she becomes thedriver of a “Walking School Bus”.

“Happy to do it,” said Burns. “We have some oftheir friends that walk with us now, so having more kids will makeit more fun walking back and forth to school.”

What’s this all about, you might ask?

“A ‘Walking School Bus’ is basically gettingvolunteers to come out and escort children to school,”Rockdale Academy Principal Cheron Reid said Thursday.

The concept is being tried as a pilot program because ofproposed busing cutbacks in the Cincinnati Public School District.Elementary students would have to live over a mile away from theirschool to ride the bus. The distance would be 1.25 miles for highschool students. That, combined with a high school Metro fareincrease, could save $1.5 million a year.

The school board will consider the plan Monday as part of $15million in proposed budget reductions.

If the “Walking School Bus” idea works at RockdaleAcademy, it could be implemented in other elementary schools.

The goal is increased student safety.

Adult volunteers are being recruited to either walk withchildren to school or be stationed at strategic locationsthroughout the neighborhood.

Reid and Community Learning Center Resource Coordinator ShalonPrice are pouring over maps of Avondale to match where studentslive with the best places to locate the volunteers and what areasto avoid.

“The children are going through dangerous streets,dangerous intersections and are passing through drugs and drugdealers and crack houses,” said Reid. “We’re justtrying to make sure we establish the safest route.”

Volunteers will have to pass background checks and will beequipped with walkie-talkies to report potential problems oremergencies.

Price said members of the community have bought into the ideaand volunteered.

“They’re very excited about it,” she said.“They like it because it’s a new concept thatwe’ve never tried before, so it’s like an aha momentfor them.”

Burns said she’s proud that Avondale can lead the way forother schools in the city.

“It’s great that Rockdale can be the start ofsomething that one day can be great and everybody will take a modelafter us doing it,” she proudly stated.

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