Operation Safe 2 School Routes
By Dianne Anderson
A 15-minute morning walk for adults might be just what the doctor ordered for better health.
But little kids trying to make their way through San Bernardino streets could be facing stranger things.
Brenda Chow, youth services specialist with San Bernardino City Unified School District, said kids walking city streets alone are likely to face some challenges.
The way to school could appear to be a safe route, but some streets don’t have sidewalks. Other streets don’t have crosswalks.
Parents walking together can spot things that kids might want to pick up along the way.
“G street is not one of our best streets,” said Chow. “I was walking the same route with students and parents, and one of the parents noticed there was a knife on the ground.”
Chow said the school district’s pilot program is now calling on parents to step up and assist with walks to help get kids to school safely.
The program’s first outreach was with Riley College Prep Academy elementary school because parents were concerned about their students walking alone. They brainstormed ways to pull groups of students and parents together to walk for safety in numbers.
The program was a success.
Right now, their safety committee is working together to determine the best walking streets, which extend three to four blocks out and about 15 minutes from school.
On Tuesday, January 28, parents are invited to participate with Operation Safe Routes 2 School Walk with staff from Roosevelt and Henry Elementary School. The event begins at 7:30 a.m. at Roosevelt Elementary School, located at 1554 North Garner Avenue in San Bernardino.
Eventually, the program would like to expand volunteer walks to 30 minutes, but for now, it offers a way for parents to meet up at a common starting point where parent walkers can continue safely with the students.
Initially, the idea started at Riley Prep elementary where parents expressed that they didn’t feel the students were safe walking to school by themselves, and they let the principal know they wanted safer solutions.
As part of community engagement for the school district, Chow said they are looking forward to expanding collaboration with city officials to benefit students.
“We’re always looking to include city, and law enforcement, we are reaching out. Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes has participated. We let them know we’re having this event, and can you help us?” she said.
Parents can also help spread the word by asking principals to get a program started at their elementary schools.
“All these things wouldn’t come about if we don’t go out and try to help our students,” she said.
During their Riley Prep walks held for three consecutive Mondays, she said even the bystanders on the route were happy to see everyone looking out for the kids.
One man brought out a trash bag. She saw him looking down the street, trying to hurry up and pick the trash up before they passed by.
“By the time we walked passed him, there was no trash on the sidewalk. You could see the sense of pride on his face,” she said.
To get the word out, the program goes out a week before the event, energize the community, and distribute flyers to parent parking lots at various schools.
Parents also are made aware through electronic flyers. All students at all grade levels receive a free chrome book at the beginning of the school year. Parents can log into the parent portal through their smartphone or chrome book, and receive texts about special events.
But, she said they still need help from parents to spread the word to other parents about the need to walk with the kids to school for safety.
Statewide, data shows African American students are seriously impacted by chronic tardiness and absenteeism, of which some is also attributed to fear of bullying or being jumped on the way to school.
Chow said that principals can help the situation by setting up at various school sites. Currently, the pilot is only available at the elementary school level because the middle school schedule starts earlier and requires a different type of management.
She said that the Positive Youth Development team can teach parents and schools how to keep the walking program going strong.
“If there’s a parent that sees a need and brings it up to the principal, the principal can reach out to our department and we can help them set up a walk,” she said.
For more information on how to help, call SBCUSD Positive Youth Development at (909) 880-6807