Yellow school buses are a familiar sight where I live in New Jersey. But with gas prices rising, school districts are worried about keeping their buses running. As diesel fuel costs about 25 cents more per gallon than the average cost of a gallon of gas, school districts are trying to figure out how to conserve for the remaining part of the academic year, as well as trying to assess how higher fuel costs might affect next year’s school budgets.
In honor of Earth Week, perhaps it’s time to try to think of more fuel-efficient, greener ways to get kids to school.
EdWeek quotes Fred Scott, supervisor of transportation for Mercer County Schools in West Virginia, says that gas prices have risen “exponentially”:
“We have seen a 22 percent increase in our fuel costs since January 2011,” Scott said. “Gas prices affect schools the same way it does everyone else. It costs more to transport students. It hurts not only us but everyone else to purchase fuel.”
In just the last week, gas prices have increased 3.7 cents per gallon; the average price nationwide is at $3.80 per gallon. For most areas of the US, prices are higher by a dollar than they were last year.
Some children do walk or ride bikes to school in my town, but they’re in a distinct minority. According to Safe Routes, only 10% of American school children walk to school. Even when a child lives only a mile from their school, only 25% of them walk. Noting the dramatic increase in obesity among school children in the past decades, Safe Routes says:
Physical activity recommendations for children suggest that they need a variety of activities each day-some intense, some less-so, some informal, some structured. Walking or cycling to and from school is an ideal way to get some of that activity at no extra cost to the child or family.
Walking to school is a missed opportunity. Roughly 10% of children nationwide walk to school regularly. Even among those kids living within a mile of their school, only 25% are regular walkers.
Parents who walk or bike to school with their kids get to be sociable. Nearly nine out ten parents who walk their children to school see it as an ideal way to meet new people, according to a survey in the UK. Many said that the school gate was a better place to meet new people than pubs, clubs, evening classes or the supermarket.
Safety concerns and hectic schedules do make walking to school simply not option for many children today. Like many parents, I’m too familiar with the traffic jam in the school parking lot as everyone tries to drop off their child and maneuver around the bus. My son currently attends an autism center for children for many counties. Due to his needs, we drive him to school, though he does take the bus home. But when he was younger and attended an autism program at a school two blocks away, we always walked, both to and fro, rain and shine. Sometimes he was not in the mood but the walk especially was a great way to transition home, rather than jumping straight into a motorized vehicle.
Safe Routes hosts a National Walk to School Day 5, which is scheduled this year for October 5. Why not get walking and let the buses (and the parent chauffeurs) take a day off?
Photo by woodleywonderworks