Program Improves the Walk to School for Kids in One Local Neighborhood

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An array of hand prints paint part of the new Walking School Bus Route — a set of sidewalks in the Ellis Heights neighborhood that have been given new life.

This, thanks to several contributors, including the United Way of Rock River Valley, the YMCA of of Rock River Valley, the Winnebago County Health Department, the Youth Services Network, and the Rockford Housing Authority.

“The walking school bus program exists to make sure students that live in the Ellis Heights neighborhood have a safe way to make it back and forth to Lewis Lemon Elementary School,” says Matthew Simpson, the Community Impact Manager of the United Way of the Rock River Valley.

Safe being the key word.

Trained, responsible adults walk the route with the students each day along sidewalks that were previously in bad shape — leading children to have to use streets to walk to school.

This is something officials did not want to keep seeing.

“We have a lot of dilapidated sidewalks on the paths to school. So we wanted to work with our partners to have a better safe route to school,” said Rockford City Administrator Jim Ryan.

So several partners got together to make the project work. And now that it’s done, everyone involved is excited.

“The Walking School Bus Program itself is a wonderful program, particularly in this neighborhood, you know, it gets small kids to school,” John Holmstrom, a board member of Rockford Corridor Improvement, said.

And officials say this isn’t the only project aimed at improving walking infrastructure across the city.

“We invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in sidewalks and handicap ramps all over the city. This is just one location. We continually do that annually,” Ryan tells Eyewitness News.

So now these kids and many others around here can leave their homes with a better path to school every day.

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