Frequently Asked Questions
Have any questions about the Maine Walking School Bus Program?
Great, we’re here to help with more information! Please read through our Frequently Asked Questions below to look for answers – and if you still have any questions, feel see the Contact Us page to be in touch with our program staff to learn more.
What is a Walking School Bus Program?
Please see our Home page for a description.
What kinds of things are you looking for in school to launch a successful Walking School Bus Program? What criteria will schools be scored on in their applications?
While many schools may be interested, not every school has the capacity, culture, or location to successfully support a local WSB program. School’s need an interested bicycle and pedestrian culture and also local infrastructure to support safe walking and biking. Good candidate schools are enthusiastic and committed fully to doing their part to make a local WSB program a success. Some key points:
- Supportive and Engaged Personnel, including a lead coordinator who may work an average of 6 hours/week. In addition to this key person, successful programs will have the support of key school officials and school office staff for minor admin and communications.
- An Active School Culture that is working to help kids get more physical activity, and is already involved with bike/ped education and encouragement.
- A Location that is safe and practicable for walking. To be successful, your school must be located in a place where walking to school can be done with reasonable safety. Features like sidewalks, crossings, and shoulders (for rural locations) are critical to the walkability of an area.
What does a Walking School Bus Coordinator do?
Please see the What Program Funding Entails section of the About page.
How does a Walking School Bus run day-to-day?
Here are some questions that often arise for daily Walking School Bus Programs:
- What is the cancellation policy for the WSB? The WSB runs every day rain or shine (or snow or wind) and cancels only for severe weather like lightning or hail or very low temperatures. We encourage students to dress appropriately and the school often collects donations of snow pants, rain pants, boots, mittens, hats, scarves and balaclavas to cover faces, etc. WSB Programs do consult the NOAA frost-bite and windchill index chart when morning temperatures are low to make sure the students out the longest time (30 minutes from the start of the route) are safe. There may be some locations in interior and northern Maine that won’t be able to run a 1 mile route for a period of mornings during the winter because of the frostbite index and length of time.
- How are students and families notified of WSB cancellations? Cancellations are very rare. Parents should expect to be notified via school telephone robo-call. A notification box is also placed on the school’s WSB page to keep families up to date on the current status of the WSB routes as well.
- What happens when a Volunteer Walk Leader needs a substitute? Volunteer Walk Leaders are responsible for finding their own substitutes from among the volunteers on their route and any trained WSB program substitutes. Volunteers are trained to always be dependable and it’s very, very rare to have a last-minute volunteer cancellation. Having at least two volunteers on the route guarantees at least one of them is there in this instance and then the school’s WSB Coordinator often joins the route him or herself if no one else is available quickly to cover the route.
- Who do I contact if my child will not be walking on a given day? Similar to a regular yellow school bus, if a child and adult caregiver are not at a given stop, the bus continues on it’s way.
- What do I do if the Walk Leader is not at the Walk Stop today? If there are no Walk Leaders at a designated Walk Stop, please wait a few minutes in case they are delayed. After waiting five minutes, take your child along to school and inform school staff so that we can address any problems.
- How do I know my child is safe with the Walking School Bus? All WSB volunteers are recruited and thoroughly trained through the local school district. These leaders supervise the school children on the walk to school. Walk Leader training encompasses road safety information, WSB Program policies, as well as ideas for creating a fun environment for the walk to school for all kids. Please see the program’s Safety Policies & Emergency Protocol here. All WSB leaders must undergo a criminal and sexual offender background check and attend our thorough safety training and do ongoing check-ins with the program for updates. Additionally, this program was designed precisely to equip children with pedestrian safety skills.
- What responsibilities do I and my student have for behavior on the Walking School Bus? Please see here for the walking rules and behavior policies for the Walking School Bus to keep everyone safe. Please share them with your child(ren). All students should receive a WSB Behavior Commitment Form when they start walking with the Walking School Bus (and any time the WSB re-starts), which goes over the same information and asks for students and families to sign that they understand.
- How can I encourage my child and his/her friends to walk to school everyday? It is always a good idea to talk about the friends they’ll get to meet and make on the WSB. There are also the health benefits of walking to school and what a great thing it is for the environment. Studies show kids also feel more ready for the school day and excited to learn. Of course, the more kids that choose to walk, the more fun it is for everyone!
- On days when there is no Walking School Bus, would it be okay if I walked all of the kids on the route to school? We encourage everyone to continue to walk on days that the program is not running. However, the WSB cannot be responsible for any incident that might occur on those days.
- Where can I find up-to-date info about the WSB? The school’s WSB web site (see webpage menu above) will generally have the most up-to-date information. You may also contact the WSB Coordinator, via e-mail or phone with any questions.