February 11, 2014

Report's findings differ locally on students walking to school

Rural schools off course from national study that finds more kids walking to school.

By Amie Sites Pharos-Tribune

---- — A national study says more children in kindergarten to eighth grade are walking to school, but local principals don’t necessarily find that to be the case.

Walking to and from school between 2007 and 2012 increased form 12.4 percent to 15.7 percent in the morning and from 15.8 percent to 19.7 percent in the afternoon, a study by the National Center for Safe Routes to School stated.

The research from the report, Trends in Walking and Bicycling to School from 2007 to 2012, was based on parent surveys from nearly 4,700 schools that represented more than a 500,000 students.

Rural locations and out-of-district students are some of the reasons local principals haven’t seen an increase.

The study found riding a bus to and from school most commonly occurred in rural areas.

Caston School Superintendent Cindy Douglass said the rural location causes the corporation to have a small number of students who live within walking distance, Douglass said.

A large number of students seem to drive to school because of sports schedules or after-school events, she said.

“Most of our students are door-to-door – either driving or being dropped off by a bus or parent,” Douglass said.

Seventy students at the corporation are out-of-district students who have to drive or be dropped off, Douglass said.

A large amount of traffic can be another deterrent of walkers.

Pioneer Elementary Principal Beth Dean said a lot of students don’t walk to the elementary school because it is located next to two highways.

“The kids we have [at Pioneer Elementary] are the younger kids, so a lot of parents drop them off,” Dean said.

Other principals either saw the number of walkers increase or stay the same.

Liz Loposser, principal at Columbia Elementary, saw the number of students walking to school increase.

Although the number of walkers has increased, it varies year to year with students moving in and out, Loposser said.

Dennis Ide, principal at Thompson Elementary, said the number of students walking to school has stayed the same, not increasing or decreasing. The reason for that is the location — for distance reasons — or weather.

In town, kids tend to walk, especially if the conditions are good – like a nice fall or spring day, Ide said.

Something Ide has noticed is an increase in parents picking up and dropping off students at the school, which serves students in kindergarten to third grade.

The study determined younger students were most likely to be driven to school.