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Norway to start 'Walking School Bus' program at elementary school (Oxford Hills Sun Journal)

By January 22, 2015Coalition News, Featured Posts

This article originally appeared on SunJournal.com
Leslie H. Dixon. Staff Writer
Oxford Hills | Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 2:39 pm
PARIS — Roughly 120 of the approximately 475 students at Rowe Elementary School may become part of a pilot Walking School Bus program in April.
The program is a national model that was developed to allow children to regularly walk safely to school with trained supervision. Portland was the first Maine school district to embrace the model, which is targeted at elementary age children as young as kindergartners.
“It just made sense,” Rowe Elementary School Principal Dan Hart said Wednesday. The program is for students who live between Whitman and Alpine streets in the downtown. The area seemed a natural fit for the program because of the existing sidewalks and its proximity to the police station, fire department and other resources.
Hart said the program is expected to begin in April on a volunteer basis. Once the program is set to go in late April or early May it will be operated during the school year and bus service will be discontinued for those students.
Trained supervisors will assist students walking to school. It is hoped parents will help walk their children to school, he said.
Hart said groups such as the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, which partners with the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, the Maine Department of Transportation and the Maine Safe Routes to School program, assisted in mapping out the most viable walking route for students.
The program will encourage a healthy, cost-effective alternative to busing students who live near the school, Hart said.
“It will definitely be a plus,” he said.
State law leaves the decision of when and where to bus students up to the local board of directors.
The Oxford Hills School District provides transportation services to all students in the interest of student safety. Elementary age students are advised to walk up to a half mile, and middle and high school students are allowed to walk up to one mile to and from the school bus, according to transportation department guidelines.
The Walking School Bus Program does not need the approval of the School Administrative District 17 board of directors. The board was apprised of the program at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Dave Fontaine, SAD 17 director of transportation, said the cost savings analysis and other program factors will be unveiled to the school administration soon. Meetings will be held with other town officials such as Norway police Chief Rob Federico.
Parents and other interested residents will be apprised of the program and what it means during informational hearings before it starts.
The SAD 17 school buses travel approximately 777,000 miles a year and transport 2,900 students daily.
ldixon@sunjournal.com