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Dozens of kids within walking distance of their Providence elementary school are now part of a pilot program aimed at getting them to school and home safely - and on time. The Walking School Bus program pairs professionals and volunteers with the mission of cutting down on chronic absenteeism and tardiness among students who, ironically, live closer to school than those who take a bus. Jim Hummel tags along.
For more information or to volunteer for The Walking School Bus click here.
The end of another school day at the Mary Fogarty Elementary School in South Providence - and hundreds of kids scatter in different directions. Some take a bus home, while others meet their parents in the playground behind the school.
Then there are two dozen plus children who are part of a new initiative called The Walking School Bus, aimed at making sure kids who have to walk - but are late to school or chronically absent - get there on time.
It's a pairing of adult professionals and volunteers that help kids walk to and from school.
Hourahan: ``The majority of the kids that were having problems with absenteeism lived within a mile of the school.''
Stephen Hourahan is the chief advancement officer for Family Service of Rhode Island - a social service agency that launched the walking school bus program last year. It's part of a children's initiative project aimed at helping a specific neighborhood with a variety of needs, from healthcare to education. In this case Fogarty Elementary - in the heart of South Providence - is the pilot for the program.
There are similar programs in other parts of the country, but the a focus is on obesity and exercise. This one is unique in that it focuses directly on absenteeism.
Hourahan: ``Some kids live at home without parents. Parents are on a third shift, they're sleeping when the kid gets up to go to school. They just weren't getting them to school.''
Ally Trenteseaux helps coordinate the walking bus. She and others who work for Family Service combine with community volunteers to get nearly three dozen children on three different routes to and from school every day. Half a dozen children from the Bailey Elementary School a few blocks away have their own route as well.
``Blue line! Blue line!''
Hummel: ``What's the reaction you find when they go with you?''
Trenteseaxu: ``They tend to never want to leave it. We've had a lot of kids from the local colleges come.''
Hourahan: ``We're talking about simple solutions again. We're not talking about something that's rocket science, it's very simple to get out and meet the kids, make sure they get to school on time, then go off and do your job. and if you can do it in the afternoon, come back at help us.''
Hummel: ``What's the pitch for others who may consider doing this?''
Mello: ``The pitch would be: You come and see what I've experienced, little children coming out of their homes, in this weather alone, you're going to want to go back and help out. You have to arrive, to achieve. If you don't arrive at school, there's no way they're going to achieve, get any decent grades if they're absent. It's impossible.''
In Providence, Jim Hummel for The Rhode Island Spotlight.