The wheels on the bus go round and round, but not in the community of Lakewood, Ohio, where families prefer the good old-fashioned method of walking.
That’s because the town has chosen to abandon school buses, resulting in the school system saving about $1 million a year on transportation costs.
The suburb of Cleveland considers itself the densest community between New York and Chicago, according to the Atlantic Cities. With 51,00 people in five and a half square miles, the community boasts seven elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school — all within walking or biking distance of their students’ homes.
A short film from Streetfilms profiles the town that developed its community without the help of busing kids to school. As Streetsblog USA reporter Annie Schmitt points out, modern schools are often built on the periphery of communities to accommodate large parking lots and cut land costs. But with the addition of transportation, districts tend to lose money whereas Lakewood’s deliberate decision to remove transportation altogether is actually saving money.
But for residents of Lakewood, the experience of walking to school is more about celebrating a sense of strong community than it is about a budget.
“It’s a big social event every morning or afternoon,” Katie Stallbaum said. “You walk to school and the kids are running and playing and laughing. It’s a good thing for them to know what community is. I don’t think they’d get that if we weren’t walking.”
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Elementary school principal Sandy Kozelka points out her students benefit from walking by having some time to relax before coming to class. As a 2012 Danish study found, walking or biking to school improves children’s ability to concentrate, with effects lasting all morning.
“When they get to school, they’re ready to learn,” she said.
Lakewood encourages students to bike to school as well. City planner Bryce Sylvester said the community hosted its first bike-to-school day as well as a charity event asking residents to donate old bikes to fix up and give to underprivileged children.
The students enjoy that period, Sylvester said. “They’re experiencing the city in a different way.”
With more school systems implementing green initiatives and finding means of cutting costs, Lakewood’s example proves that sometimes simplicity works best.