Rowe Elementary School’s Walking School Bus makes its first run

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NORWAY — Cheers went up as the Walking School Bus arrived Tuesday for the first day of classes at Guy E. Rowe Elementary School.

“Way to go, Walking School Bus,” Transportation Director Dave Fontaine shouted as dozens of students, their chaperons and police officer Brandon Correia rounded the corner at Marston Street and headed down the entrance to the elementary school.

A total of 63 children signed up for the first day of the program, which calls itself a “motor-less” bus for children in grades one through six who live within half a mile of the school, said Rebecca Powell, program coordinator.

All students who live in the designated area must walk to school year-round. Trained and vetted volunteers will accompany the students.

The nationwide Walking School Bus program has been implemented to improve students’ health and to save the school district money.

“We’re down to three buses,” Principal Dan Hart said. Approximately $18,000 will be saved annually, he said.

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Hart and teachers stood at the bus loop Tuesday morning to greet the students as they arrived. Hart said about 500 students are attending his school this year, an increase of 30 to 40 from last year.

New principals, teachers, students and programs greeted thousands of children who headed back to school Tuesday in the Oxford Hills School District.

Students in grades eight, 10, 11, 12 will return to school Wednesday.

The staggered scheduled allows new freshmen and seventh-grade students to get a feel for the school before the older students return.

The district includes the towns of Norway, Paris, Hebron, West Paris, Waterford, Harrison, Otisfield and Oxford.

“I’m nervous and excited,” Isabel Shiers, 7, said as she waited with dozens of other students to walk to Guy E. Rowe School. She said she was looking forward to participating in mathematics and science classes.

Kody Fantozzi, a fifth-grader at the school, said he was especially looking forward to classwork in mathematics, reading and geography.

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