As defined by Safe Routes to School, a walking school bus is a group of children walking to school with one or more adults. File photo courtesy NHTSA

As defined by Safe Routes to School, a walking school bus is a group of children walking to school with one or more adults. File photo courtesy NHTSA

BEND, Ore. — Students in several Oregon counties will have a new way to get to school with the launch of a walking school bus program.

The regional program, led by Bend-based nonprofit Commute Options, covers the central Oregon counties of Deschutes, Crook, and Jefferson and the northern part of Klamath County.

As defined by Safe Routes to School, a walking school bus is a group of children walking to school with one or more adults.

Commute Options announced last month that it is creating walking school bus routes throughout central Oregon. The program is funded by a $123,000 grant from the Central Oregon Health Council.

“Starting in July, we’ll have a full-time coordinator to help communities implement Walking School Buses,” said Brian Potwin, active transportation manager for Commute Options, in a news release.

The program provides meeting points, timetables, and a rotating schedule of trained volunteers to lead the processions. Commute Options said that the volunteer leaders can include parents, teachers, high school students, seniors, business owners, and elected officials.

The news release about the program also points to the health benefits that a walking school bus provides for students.

“The best investment we can make is in our children’s health, and we are always looking upstream to catch poor health choices before they present themselves to kids and adolescents,” said Donna Mills, executive director of the Central Oregon Health Council. “When kids get more physical activity in their daily lives, they often do better in school and they are more likely to become healthy, resilient adults.”

For more information, go to the Commute Options website.

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