- Photo by Lucas Freeman
- Students at Bend's Miller Elementary School enjoy an active commute to school.
Students of schools in Deschutes, Jefferson, Crook and Northern Klamath counties can now participate in walking school buses—a fun and organized way for students to safely get to school, by walking or biking in a group. Much like a school bus, classmates are picked up along the way to school. Commute Options, a local non-profit supporting biking, walking and other alternative forms of transportation, recently received a $123,000 grant from the Central Oregon Health Council's Regional Health Improvement Plan, paired with Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes Prevention Workgroup, to design the program. Commute Options aims to include 20 schools in four counties and include all grades.
In Bend, elementary schools including Bear Creek, Pine Ridge and Elk Meadow are acting as case studies for walking school buses, through a program offered by Bend Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Directors are hoping to offer the program two days a week and to eventually include more schools. Crook County middle and elementary schools will be some of the first schools to try out the new program.
Studies by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show that kids who walk or bike to school are healthier, happier and often do better in school.
"Walking to school is a great way to increase your child's physical activity. With the Walking School Bus program, our goal is to help kids and families get physical activity, reduce traffic congestions at schools and get to know their neighborhoods," states Brian Potwin, active transportation manager for Commute Options.