Walking School Bus Takes Off in Perry

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PERRY, Iowa – Most parents drop off their kids at the bus stop expecting them to get on a big yellow bus, but students at one school use their feet instead of wheels to get to class.

Waiting for the bus takes on a new meaning for about twenty Perry Elementary School students.

“We're going to walk to school, get some exercise," said third-grade student Jeanette Willett.

Each Friday in the spring and fall, about twenty elementary students meet at Perry High School.

"This is an actual school bus stop. And, so rather than riding the bus to school, we use our feet and we walk our school bus,” said Walking School Bus Volunteer Misty VonBehren.

This is the third year for the Perry Walking School Bus. Students must register. Parents sign a permission slip. Volunteers take turns walking with the kids. Local businesses donate weekly prizes.

Organizers would like for it to expand.

"It's all community driven, so in order for that to happen, we'd have to have a large group of volunteers to be able to commit, so we could do that, but that would be ultimately the goal to have less cost, less pollution, and more kids out there being active," said VonBehren.

The Walking School Bus takes a mile long route from Perry High School to Perry Elementary School. It's considered a Safe Route to School. It got federal funding to build a wide sidewalk.

Carrie Mueller with the American Heart Association said, "Safe Routes to School is federal funding that comes into the state. Communities can apply for it, and use those funds for infrastructure like building sidewalks and also for programs like this, like walking school buses."

Now, the American Heart Association, which is part of The Healthier Iowa Coalition wants state lawmakers to dedicate funds to Safe Routes to School programs so other communities can do something similar.

"Walking school buses are really starting to gain traction. It's sort of a new concept and what we'd hope today is that people will see this and replicate a program like this in their community," said Mueller.

It’s something the Perry students enjoy.

"It gets you more awake when you're going to school, and so you're not falling asleep when your teacher is teaching," said Willett.

You can find more information about starting a walking school bus and Safe Routes to School at healthieriowa.com.