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O'Loughlin grant helps students turn to walking





Getting to O'Loughlin Elementary School could get healthier for students and easier for drivers.

The school has received a $2,000 grant to support the Walking School Bus program.

The money comes from a federal program, said Robert Johnson, director of consulting for PedNet in Columbia, Mo.

Johnson had an informational meeting Thursday morning, followed by workshops with Terri Tramel, O'Loughlin school secretary and WSB coordinator, and Nancy Harman, O'Loughlin principal.

In a walking school bus, a child walks to school with a group of other students led by one or more adults who have been trained to lead them. They walk along predetermined routes for safety and efficiency.

Students usually have plenty of energy in the morning, Tramel said.

After walking to school and getting exercise in the morning, "they're going to be able to come in and focus," she said.

It will help students get a positive start in the morning, Harman said.

"Fitness is a huge issue for our kids," said Mandy Fox, mother of four children and co-president of the school's PTA. "I've seen traffic issues firsthand as a volunteer."

"Traffic is a concern," said Harman, who helps direct the pick-up and drop-off process.

Many districts have the "most highly skilled, most highly compensated staff person (the principal) directing traffic," Johnson said.

Since fewer than 10 students live within what might be considered walkable distance to the school, O'Loughlin likely will have staging points or drop-off locations. Adult leaders will meet them, and groups walk to school from there.

"Instead of parents dropping kids off at the school and causing traffic congestion, they'll drop them off somewhere else," Johnson said.

After district officials finalize plans, including addressing specific issues such as weather, information will be available through the PTA at enrollment and at oloughlin.usd489.com, Harman said.

To be a volunteer for the program, call the school office at (785) 623-2510.