April 14, 2021

County’s ‘Safe Routes to Schools’ Program Encourages Parents to Organize ‘Walking School Buses’ to Help Young Students to Walk to Neighborhood Schools

Montgomery County Public School students are returning to in-person instruction in the next steps of recovery from the COVID-19 health crisis and spring weather has arrived. That combination has the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) and its Safe Routes to Schools program encouraging parents to organize a “Walking School Bus” to enable young students to safely walk to the schools in their neighborhoods. Walking school buses provide a safe and fun way for children to get physical activity as they travel to and from school—with adult supervision.

A walking school bus is a parent-organized effort similar to a carpool group but rather than share driving responsibilities, joins together adult supervision to walk kids to and from school. Each “bus” walks along a set route, with one or more adults leading the group of children. The walking group picks up (or drops off) children at designated stops, similar to a traditional school bus. Walking school buses also provide a safe way for parents to help each other with the demands of getting children to and from school in an outdoor and socially distanced manner.

“As schools reopen, we must ensure the safety of children walking to their school,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. “The ‘Walking School Bus’ program will help improve the routines of those students who walk to school. Thanks to MCDOT, MCPS, Safe Routes and the Vision Zero Initiative for this safe, fun, healthy and environmentally friendly program.”

The program is a partnership between MCDOT, Montgomery County Public Schools, the County’s Safe Routes to Schools program and the Vision Zero Initiative. It encourages students to stay healthy, active and safe by walking to school. It is also a great program to teach children about traffic safety and the rules of the road. The program is also aligned with the County’s climate goals by promoting transportation options that reduce carbon emissions.

“After a year of major disruption to families and students, we hope that a return to in-person schooling provides an opportunity for local communities to consider new ways of getting to and from school,” said MCDOT Director Chris Conklin. “Walking to school as a group provides healthy physical activity at the start and end of each school day, helps adults to help each other and share the demands of parenting, strengthens community ties and helps to reduce traffic and carbon emissions.”

There are many benefits in participating in a Walking School Bus, including:
  • Outdoor and socially distanced ways for adults to share parenting responsibilities
  • Increasing daily physical activity
  • Opportunities to learn about and practice road safety
  • Saving money on gas and reducing car emissions
  • Reducing traffic in school zones
  • Meeting other families and making new friends
  • Making travel to and from school fun
To learn more and to get started, visit https://montgomerycountymd.gov/wsb.

The WSB program includes details on how neighborhoods can organize and offers many tips on how to make the program successful for students and parents. Those details can be viewed at https://tinyurl.com/25hcu3bh.

The County’s Department of Transportation also can provide assistance on how walking school buses can be organized. For help, contact Duwan.Morris@montgomerycountymd.gov.