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This bus walks to school

Program aims to get students out of cars and on their feet, and to reduce traffic around campus.

April 01, 2011|By Megan O'Neil
  • Emily Petrossian, 5, holds onto the hand of her mom Caroline as they lead a "walking bus" to R. D. White elementary school to promote pedestrian safety around the school on Friday, April 1, 2011. The school plans to do this on the first Friday of the month, and this marks the second time they have done this. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)
Emily Petrossian, 5, holds onto the hand of her mom Caroline…

What has 120 legs, 60 smiles and makes four stops as it cruises up and down the sidewalks of Doran and Geneva streets? It is the R.D. White Elementary School “walking school bus,” the latest effort by staff and parents to promote pedestrian and traffic safety at the site.

Approximately 60 students – divided into four groups – were escorted Friday to White by adult volunteers who donned neon orange reflector vests and positioned themselves as front and rear bumpers. The participants assembled at four “stops,” each natural gathering points several blocks from the school.

The walking school bus was introduced this year as a monthly event after first used on an experimental basis in 2008. It is part of a larger effort — modeled on the national Safe Routes to School program — to promote safety and alternative modes of transportation at White and throughout the Glendale Unified School District.


“The whole push is to get traffic away from the school,” said parent volunteer Wendy Hunter. “The more people that walk, the less traffic there is around the school.”

White’s Safe Routes to School contingent — formed in the wake of a fatal traffic accident at Toll Middle School in October 2008 — has grown to 80 parents, Hunter said. In addition to the walking school bus, they also are responsible for supervising morning drop-off.

“I think it is probably our most visible volunteer effort at the school,” Hunter said. “We have changed our drop-off procedures to make them safer. We have also changed out pick-up procedures. Now you have to park and walk in to get your kids, rather than driving through and getting them.”

The school now surveys its families to assess transportation habits, said Principal Suzanne Risse. Currently, about 20% of the student body walks to school on any given day, up from 18% a year ago, she said.

“Our first effort really was just about getting the traffic in the area down,” Risse said. “Now we are moving to the next level, we are really trying to encourage kids walking. We have noticed a definite increase.”

The city of Glendale has also set in motion efforts to make it safer to walk to and from school. In 2009, the city applied for, and was awarded, a $898,560 Safe Routes to School grant to make traffic improvements at and around six different school sites. The work is expected to take place this summer.

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