Volunteer coordinator for the walking school bus at Edison Elementary School, Sam Donahoo, interacts with a student during the first day of the 2018-19 school year Thursday.

Officially, Edison Elementary School is served by one school bus. Unofficially, though, it has two thanks to the efforts of volunteers who helped get some students to class safely for the first day of school Thursday.

Unlike a typical bus, Edison’s walking school bus runs on foot power. The program, now in its second year, serves students who live close enough to the school to walk but too close to ride the bus.

“It’s just a like a regular school bus, but we just go around and walk and pick up kids on our route,” Sam Donahoo, the walking school bus’s volunteer coordinator said.

The idea is to help get kids to school safely and to provide them with an incentive to leave home for school each day. It’s also served as a catalyst for improving school attendance at Edison.

The program has been particularly impactful for families like Lindsey Holcomb’s, whose son attends Edison and joined the walking school bus on the first day of school Thursday.

“When this came around, it’s like the sun came up again in the morning,” Holcomb said.

Riley’s father suffered a stroke two years ago, unfortunately putting an end to his pep talks to Riley each morning before school. The ordeal made Riley’s days understandably difficult.

Then, Holcomb said, she was approached last year about the walking school bus.

“It’s really been a godsend for our family,” Holcomb said. “The tears went away in the morning. He started getting excited ... He takes it very seriously, so anything that can give him initiative is great in my eyes.”

Walking school buses aren’t original to the St. Joseph School District. They’ve been implemented in school districts across the nation as way to get kids to school in a manner that’s both fun and safe.

St. Joseph School District Superintendent Dr. Doug Van Zyl, who joined the walking bus at Edison on Thursday, said it’s an idea he’s familiar with but one he’s never personally seen implemented.

“Help some parents who maybe can’t get their kid right away to school in the morning, to have some other adults walking in the neighborhood and pick up their kids and know they’re getting them to school is a great thing,” Van Zyl said.

With a base that’s more than doubled from 10 to 21 volunteers, Donahoo hopes to expand the program this year.

“Right now, we’re on the east side of 22nd (Street) and I would like to get another route on the west side of 22nd so that we can have more kids being able to be walked to school safely,” Donahoo said.

Zach McNulty can be reached at zach.mcnulty@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowMcNulty.

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