Shepard students take the walking school bus

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Students at Shepard Boulevard Elementary School seemed to love walking to school with the Walking School Bus Wednesday, March 23. They talked with friends, played with a dog and bragged about who had walked to school the most.

The walking school bus, a program where volunteers walk with students to school in the morning, started for the season at Shepard Monday, March 14. Somewhere between 80 and 85 students regularly walk with the Walking School Bus to Shepard along the two routes according to Tina DeClue, founder of Shepard’s program.

“Our goal is 100,” DeClue said. “I’m determined, the students are determined.”

When DeClue started the program 2 1/2 years ago, she and her son were the only regular participants. Now some parents even drive from other parts of town to drop their children off at the Walking School Bus remote starting location.

“It was a process that started hoping we would get some of the neighborhood kids, but it’s really expanded,” Shepard Principle JoNetta Weaver said.

From the starting point at the corner of Old 63 and Shepard Boulevard, the first Walking School Bus is about a half mile long. The second line, which started at the beginning of last school year, goes down Audubon Drive and covers about the same distance.

Volunteers mark “Frequent Walker” tags the students carry to keep track of how many days each walked. At the end of the school year, the students get prizes depending on how many days they walked that year. The Walking School Bus also keeps track of about how many steps each child took using the same method.

DeClue first took up the task of starting the Walking School Bus at Shepard after hearing about it in a PTA meeting. She said the speaker supported the program for environmental and health concerns. Now that she is a part of the program, DeClue sees additional benefits.

“Yes, it’s about exercise,” DeClue said. “Yes, it’s about keeping pollution away from the school, but it’s really about relationships.”

DeClue said the most important benefit to the students is “them getting a clear head on their way to school.”

Seven-year-old Skylar Koepke enjoyed her morning walk to school. After stopping to pet a neighbor’s puppy, Skylar explained her reasons for liking the Walking School Bus: “I get an idea of what the temperature will be like for recess and I get to see nature.”

Shepard’s Walking School Bus leaves from both starting locations Monday through Thursday at 8:15 a.m. Volunteers and students start gathering at 8. To find out whether the program is canceled due to weather conditions, you can call the hotline at (573) 256-0082.

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Filed under Schools, Woodridge—Shepard

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