NORWAY — Volunteers will walk students who live near Rowe Elementary School to and from the school beginning Tuesday, April 28.

It’s a prelude to next fall when all students in grades one through six who live in a designated area about a half mile from the school will no longer be bused and must walk to school year-round. Volunteers will accompany the 50 to 60 students who live in the area.

The Walking School Bus program, which is being implemented to improve students’ health and save the school district money, is strictly voluntary for students this spring but will be mandatory for first- through sixth-graders in the fall.

Trained supervisors, who will be vetted, will accompany students.

Prekindergarten and kindergarten students who want to join their siblings are encouraged to, but they will have bus service next year if they wish to use it.

There will stops, starting at Aries Pizza at Main and Whitman streets. Students and volunteers will proceed to the school, picking up other students along the way.

“There will be no wheels on this bus,” Rebecca Powell, Walking School Bus coordinator, said at a parent informational session Thursday night at the school. No parents attended.

SAD 17 officials have said the Rowe school area seemed a natural fit for the program because of sidewalks and the proximity to the police and fire stations.

The program is based on a national model that targets elementary students. Portland was the first Maine school district to use it.

SAD 17 Transportation Director Dave Fontaine said the area is safe to walk because sidewalks have been built the past few years. Police Chief Rob Federico said his agency is very involved with the program and will ensure it is carried out safely.

Volunteers are being sought to accompany them.

State law leaves the decision of when and where to bus students up to the local board of directors.

SAD 17 traditionally provided transportation services to all students in the interest of student safety. Elementary students are advised to walk up to a half mile, and middle and high school students are allowed to walk up to one mile to and from the school bus, according to transportation department guidelines.

The Walking School Bus Program does not need the approval of the school board, which was apprised of it in January.

SAD 17 buses travel approximately 777,000 miles a year and transport 2,900 students daily.

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At least 10 volunteers are needed to accompany students walking to Rowe Elementary School in Norway starting Tuesday, April 28.

Volunteers must attend a one-hour training session and agree to a criminal background check. A volunteer training session will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday, April 16, in the school cafeteria.

Parents who want to volunteer or who have questions can call Rebecca Powell can be reached at (207) 393-7373.

School Principal Dan Hart said information is available in the school office.

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