‘Walking School Bus’ in spotlight at island schools, state Legislature

KILAUEA — The Walking School Bus engaged students around the island on Wednesday, one day before the state Legislature will consider a bill to fund and expand the model Safe Routes to School program.

“We’ve got people doing all sorts of things at every site,” said Bev Brody, island coordinator for the Get Fit Kaua‘i initiative.

“Derek Kawakami, our state representative, is walking with the kids at Kapa‘a Elementary School, and Bill Arakaki, the Kaua‘i Area Complex superintendent, is at Kalaheo School,” Brody said. “In addition, the students at Kalaheo School will be greeted by the school band playing for them when they arrive.”

The state House of Representatives today will consider House Bill 2626, which calls for a surcharge of $10 ($20 if in a school zone) for all moving violations. The surcharge would go into public works to fund Safe Routes to School.

On Kaua‘i, the program’s Walking School Bus takes place every fourth Wednesday of the month.

 Marshall Anthony, a Kilauea Elementary School fifth-grade student, said it was fun walking with a big crowd Wednesday, and he had an opportunity to win a bike.

The Walking School Bus which ended at Kilauea School was one of several taking place around the island in conjunction with the Safe Routes to School Walk to School Day set aside for the fourth Wednesday of each month.

“What is exciting about Kilauea is they have a new route which was generated by the students,” Brody said.

The former route which took students along the Kilauea Lighthouse Road was just too long and there was too much traffic, said Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., who joined the walk.

A police officer who accompanied the group and helped with traffic control said the new route is much shorter and follows the route used in the event of a school-wide evacuation.

The difference is the students arrive at school rather than exit the school.

“This was the students’ idea,” Brody said. “They came up with the idea after the first Walking School Bus brought them to campus the long way.”

Alan Talaga of the Wisconsin Clearinghouse for Prevention Resources, which promotes “healthier communities,” joined the group to film and photograph participants for its national program.

“This is great,” Talaga said. “Kaua‘i does a great job with coordinating the Walk to School day among a lot of schools. You don’t see that on the Mainland.”

Brody said the key to the success of the program is parental involvement. She cited the efforts of Jacelyn Milbrand, a parent champion, who spearheaded the Kilauea school effort.

“I just talked to a lot of people in the neighborhood,” Milbrand said. “The kids love doing this — getting up early and walking and riding with their friends. One little girl said, ‘My legs are itchy.’”

Leyen Meyer, who was escorting 10-month-old Isaac Kala‘i Correa, said her grandson Ian Makana Correa is in first grade and wanted to participate because he wanted to be with his friends.

“We’re working to make the roadways and sidewalks safer as more and more students take advantage of all of the benefits of walking to school and receiving a healthy snack at the end,” Carvalho said in a video interview with the Wisconsin Clearinghouse.

“We as leaders must set the example and get back to our roots of us having had to do this when we were in school. This was how it used to be, but our emphasis is on health and safety,” the mayor said.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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