Students who participate in the walking school bus are showing lower absentee and tardiness rates than the school average.
A Walking School Bus (WSB)External is low-cost, simple concept with a basic goal: to increase the number of youth who get 60 minutes of safe, structured physical activity every day. A WSB is a group of students walking to school along a structured route with meeting points similar to a regular school bus. Students are supervised by one or more adults, on a rotating schedule of trained volunteers.
Since 2014, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Disease Prevention, has worked with the Bicycle Coalition of Maine (BCM) and the Maine Department of Transportation to promote WSB programs in Maine schoolsExternal. The partnership provides resources, training, and technical assistance. Each participating school receives funding for a WSB Coordinator.
East End Community School in Portland was selected as the pilot school. The majority of East End’s students are from immigrant or refugee families, receive free or reduced school lunch, and tend to transfer often between schools. During the 2014–2015 academic year, East End was provided funding for a school WSB coordinator, technical assistance (e.g., site visits, conference calls), and incentives for student participation (e.g., stickers). For the pilot, the WSB was only offered in the morning.
East End Community Schools WSB participants had a lower absentee rate (WSB: 5.2 vs School: 8.0 days/school year) and tardiness rate (WSB: 2.0 vs School: 3.0 days/school year) than the school average. Participation in the WSB also helped new students from immigrant and refugee families integrate into the community. Parents liked that the WSB gave their children an opportunity to socialize with American and other immigrant children.
East End reported that WSB participants had improved interactions with adult volunteers and school staff; improved relationships and friendships with other students; and an improved connectedness to their neighborhood and local organizations.