Riverstone Health is using Go Grant Funds to start a Walking School Bus pilot project.
The UWYC Go Grant helped RiverStone Health successfully launch two Walking School Bus programs, and creatively engage and educate students, families, and the broader community about safe, active transportation to school. Through this opportunity they were able to encourage physical activity with a focus on safety in Yellowstone County. United Way of Yellowstone County provided support and flexibility throughout the challenges that COVID-19 presented and were invaluable to the success of RiverStone's efforts. This grew momentum for SRTS in our community that will hopefully spur more action in the future.
About the Walking School Bus Project
The UWYC Go Grant helped advance Safe Routes to School (SRTS) in Yellowstone County in order to increase student safety, physical activity, health, and academic success. In the fall and winter of 2019, UWYC grant funds helped pilot two Walking School Bus (WSB) programs at Highland and McKinley elementary schools by providing the following:
- Volunteer parent coordinators with stipends for their efforts
- Walking route volunteer incentives
- gift cards to local coffee shops and grocery stores
- One year of Active4.me software licensing for both schools
- Students receive a barcode tag that is scanned at school and provides parents with a notification of their student’s arrival; it also tracks trips and mileage and gives students virtual badges for reaching certain markers.
- Due to the small size of the WSBs, capacity issues of school staff, and the disruption of COVID-19, the software was not used consistently or to its full potential.
- Both schools are not looking to implement the software in the near future due to these constraints, but hope to re-examine this if their programs become larger.
- Designer fees to create professional, student-illustrated safety posters and postcards
- Students who had their design chosen received a prize and their posters were distributed to each school
- Postcards are to be printed and mailed to Highland and McKinley families March of 2021
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the WSB pilots were put on pause and some of the original plans were unable to come to fruition.
October was declared “Walktober” by Mayor Cole and a proclamation encouraging walking and biking was read at a City Council meeting.
Fun activities, safety tips, and information were shared throughout the month on social media.
RiverStone Health also sent out a press release for National Walk to School Day encouraging schools and families to participate safely and invited all county elementary schools to submit proposals for walking or biking prize funds. Selected schools received $200-300 to improve walking, biking, or rolling at their school. These schools accomplished the following:
- Lockwood Elementary purchased bicycle helmets for students in grades Pre-kindergarten to 5th grade to accompany their classroom bicycle safety instruction. They have 800+ students in their elementary school, and bicycling and walking safety is a priority in their community.
- Highland Elementary purchased a “See Me Flag” kit to improve visibility for students who use the crosswalk at 11th Street West and Poly Drive. This intersection is not always respected by motorists, many of whom speed along Poly Drive.
- Newman Elementary used the funds to support the “Newman Lane Community Unification Project.” This project aims to make parent drop off/pick up safer and encourages families and students to walk and bike to school more often by improving infrastructure and aesthetics.
- Broadwater Elementary purchased 8 orange traffic cones and 2 portable fluorescent green “pedestrian crosswalk” towers to supplement two of their three student crosswalks. They hope to bring traffic calming and pedestrian awareness to these busy intersections.
Lastly, RiverStone purchased 200 light-up spinners to use as incentives and giveaways for students to encourage active transportation. These spinners provide a fun fidget toy while also providing light and visibility for students – they plan to give these out at future events and programs!