MILWAUKEE — More than 40% of students at Lincoln Avenue Elementary School walk to school every day, and a new grant from the City of Milwaukee and the Safe Routes to School initiative is working to help take the dangers of reckless driving out of the equation for those kids as they head to class.
A $75,000 grant has been awarded to Milwaukee Public Schools to help improve traffic infrastructure and that grant has been inspired by programs and resources that help ensure kids are able to go to, and get home from, school safely.
One example of a program that has proven to be successful is The Walking School Bus.
For three years, teachers and volunteers have waken up early, dressed up in yellow vests, and headed out the door to pick up kids from their homes. They walk holding a cardboard cutout of a school bus.
Community School Coordinator Regina Stieber says The Walking School Bus is a program that provides peace of mind to parents.
"They didn’t want to send their kids walking by themselves in the neighborhood because of the reckless driving," said Stieber.
With more reckless drivers on the road at the same time as the children, demand for additional walking school buses has increased over the years.
Today, nearly 40 kids participate in the program along two routes at Lincoln Avenue Elementary.
With more community schools showing interest in creating safer routes to schools for students, the City of Milwaukee is now also getting involved.
Students have designed "traffic-calming" plans and are working to convince officials to take their plans seriously.
On March 6, some of those plans were presented by Ald. Jose Perez to the city's reckless driving task force.
Parents say the Safe Routes to School program is brilliant.
Dulce Sanchez says her son is often eager to be a part of The Walking School Bus.
"I tell him 'come on get up! We have to get ready for Walking School Bus,' and he wakes up immediately," said Sanchez.
For fourth grade student Laide Escho, the program is an exciting jump start to his day,
"It just makes me feel good and proud because you know you’re getting that energy inside and then you know you’re going to feel happy," said Escho.
The grant will help fund safer routes to school, offering opportunities to add more speed bumps, lighting, and signage as well as helping to expand The Walking School Bus program.
Teachers say The Walking School Bus has also helped to fight absenteeism and truancy.
The program is strategically held on Mondays and Fridays - two days when teachers noticed a drop-off in attendance. They say the program has helped lessen that attendance drop-off over the years.