Getting Creative with Safe Routes to School in Rural Communities

Safe Routes to School Programs and activities have unique opportunities and needs in rural areas. At the Safe Routes Partnership Annual meeting in August, several advocates from rural areas shared their creative ideas to creating thriving programs in rural areas. Often times we meet with a rural school or a community and hear, “How will the Safe Routes to School program work for us, when 90% of the students are bused to school?” One of the great things about Safe Routes to School is that it is not a “one size fits all program” and it provides the flexibility for communities and schools to make their local program a success.

walking to school in WisconsinTo keep the conversation about rural communities going, we asked Safe Routes Partnership steering committee member Melissa Kramer Badtke of East Central Regional Planning Commission to guest blog about how rural schools in northeast Wisconsin are participating in International Walk to School Day and Safe Routes to School programming:

Readfield and Sugar Bush Elementary School, New London: The Walk Run Fitness Fun Program is built into the physical education curriculum of these schools. Every Monday the entire student body walks around the ¼ mile course at their school. Students are given a punch card and for International Walk to School Day, the entire school will participate in a Walk at School Day event.

Coloma Elementary School, Coloma: Students at Coloma Elementary School help out the local community each winter by shoveling the sidewalks after it snows. The sidewalks are the primary route to and from school for the majority of students that attend this school and these snow angels continue to make it possible.

Immanuel Lutheran School, Greenville: For International Walk to School Day each year, students are bused from their school to a local park. Students walk a 2.0 mile trail within the community park.

Green Lake Elementary School, Green Lake: Green Lake Elementary School started its walking school bus program in 2010 with just one route and nine students the first year. Today it has grown to three routes and more than 20 students. Advocates within this district have also worked diligently with the City of Green Lake and the Green Lake School District to make sure that the students have a safe place to walk.

Waupaca Learning Center, Waupaca: In Waupaca, senior citizens walk with students during their Walking Wednesday program. This provides students and senior citizens with a great form of exercise in the morning and is a great way to connect the youth with an older generation.

We want to hear your stories. How has your local coalition been creative in integrating Safe Routes to School activities and programs at your rural schools?