Students who usually walk to Lincoln Elementary School alone or are dropped by their parents now have another option for getting there.
Tiffin Community YMCA is sponsoring the Tiffin YMCA Walking School Bus Program in the Lincoln neighborhood.
Francine Neal, Activate America program coordinator at the YMCA, said the concept has been employed in different places, but this year is the first time it's been tried in Tiffin. Monday was the first day of the local program.
"There are a lot of walking school buses across the country," she said.
Neal said the YMCA is looking for ways to encourage children to learn to love moving and appreciate being outdoors. Officials also are seeking to have physical activity become a regular part of children's lives.
"We hope to encourage kids to love activity (and) increase their activity," she said.
Papers about the walking school bus were sent home with children. If parents didn't receive them, they can visit the YMCA. Parents must fill out paperwork before children can join the walking school bus. For more information, call Francine Neal at (419) 447-8711.
Neal said YMCA officials are hopeful that by having children walk to school, they'll get to school and feel ready state learn when they arrive. They will have been out in fresh air, she said.
"They'll be ready to sit down and learn," she said.
Neal said officials wanted to start the program in one school and get it going. From there, they are hoping the interest will exist throughout the city so they can expand. The program is starting with Lincoln, which has a railroad track running nearby.
"It makes it a little unfriendly for the kids to walk to school," she said.
Neal said the program has two routes. One starts at Tiffin Eagles, 68 Riverside Drive, and the other starts at Heritage IGA, 479 E. Market St.
"The parents could drop their kids at those two locations by 7:30, and then we walk the route to the school," she said. "If the kids live along that route, they can walk out their front door and join the bus."
Neal, one of the bus chaperones, said 7:20-7:30 a.m. is the time when parents should drop off their children, and the bus leaves the parking lots at 7:30 a.m.
"It will be a line, and we will be on sidewalks the whole way," she said.
The walking school bus program is to continue for six weeks in the fall, and officials are planning to start it again in the spring.
The bus does not travel in rain or in the event of a two-hour delay.
Neal said she would love to expand the program to more schools, but it has to have the support of the community because the YMCA needs people to lead and follow the lines. People who would like to volunteer with the program can contact her at the YMCA and must go through a background check and fingerprinting process.
Currently, YMCA staff members are to walk with children, but Neal said volunteers would enable the program to have more routes. Volunteers could take over the role of the YMCA staff members, she said.
Tom Anway, director of operations for Tiffin City Schools, said district buses transport students who live more than two miles from their home schools. Children attending Krout, Lincoln, Noble and Washington elementary schools all live within two miles of the schools, he said.
Anway serves on the YMCA's board of directors and said there always are collaborative ventures between the school district and the YMCA.
He said he thinks the walking school bus idea is wonderful. It reduces the number of vehicles around the building in the morning. He said it creates a safer situation and gets children out walking in the morning.
"This is well-supervised," he said.
Neal said officials hope the community embraces the idea. People see things through different eyes when walking and notice things they don't notice when they're driving past them, she said.
"It's just a beautiful community," she said.