You may have noticed something different about Wednesday mornings near Verde Elementary School. Children from grades Kindergarten through sixth grade are laughing, walking and talking together as they enjoy a brisk walk to school.
A dedicated group of parents and neighborhood residents have formed what they call the “Walking School Bus,” accompanying students as they walk to school – to promote unity and public safety in North Richmond.
Every Wednesday morning at 7:40 a.m., students and volunteers meet at Shields-Reid Park at 1410 Kelsey St. to participate in the Verde Walking School Bus. Students line up in order of youngest to oldest as instructed by parents and volunteers.
One designated leader has a stop sign to control traffic during crossings. Four other adults wear fluorescent yellow safety vests branded with the name, “Walk and Roll Patrol,” to increase group visibility.
The walking “bus” crosses Market Street and takes Giaramita Street to school, pausing along the way to pick-up additional students.
The Walking School Bus is exciting to students who are encouraged to participate regularly to win prizes. Currently, more than 22 children and adults participate weekly including representatives of local churches and community-based agencies.
Among those who volunteer to help are Demetria Saunders of Youth Enrichment Strategies; Marena Brown of Shield-Reid Neighborhood Council; Pastor Cassandry Keys, Lloyd Madden, Bodine Brown, Gloria Breedlove and William Benford of Davis Chapel C.M.E.; Eloyscia Ratliff of Contra Costa Health Services Bureau, Community leaders bicyclists Clyde Jones and Erika Stilt.
The “Walking School Bus” is part of a larger West Contra Costa Safe Routes to School Project sponsored by Contra Costa Health Services. The project encourages walking and biking to school to promote daily exercise and reduce crime.
For more information on Walk and Roll, contact Shannon Ladner-Beasley of Contra Costa Health Services at (925) 313-6813.
Kia Croom is a contributing writer for the Richmond Post.