National Walk to School Day is Wednesday, October 3. It’s a great opportunity for PTOs to help kids get to school in a healthier and safer way. Here’s a great example of a mom who runs a walking school bus:
When it comes to living green and promoting a healthier lifestyle for families at San Francisco’s Longfellow Elementary, Jacquie Zapata-Chavez doesn’t just talk the talk, she walks the walk. Every Wednesday, the former PTA president leads a convoy of students and their parents on foot throughout a one-mile route to school. The “walking school bus” doesn’t have doors or produce any emissions, and children and their parents happily hop on board together.
“We have about 100 walkers so we command attention when we walk,” Zapata-Chavez says. The group meets at a fast-food restaurant parking lot around 8 a.m., but students eat fresh organic fruit donated by the school’s nutritionist. “Then we do stretches to music while we wait for walkers, and at 8:20 we start to walk and pick up students along the way,” she explains. Throughout the hike, the group chants “Longfellow What? Walks!”
Zapata-Chavez took on “bus duty” in 2009 when the principal asked her to be a traffic safety coordinator to help ease the congestion at drop-off. “We had cars double-parked, triple-parked, parents yelling at each other, kids crossing in the middle of the street….It was just awful,” she recalls. Zapata-Chavez learned about the National Center for Safe Routes to School and won a grant from the organization to start a walking school bus program.
The weekly walk has earned the school some positive attention. Local officials, including former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and a state senator, have climbed on board Longfellow’s walking school bus. The school won a $10,000 NFL Play 60 grant and an equipment donation and was visited by a few Oakland Raiders players last fall. But the best outcome of the walking school bus so far? “Not only are we fighting obesity, global warming, and traffic,” Zapata-Chavez says, “but we are teaching our children to be good neighbors and citizens of the community and planet!”