RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Wake County Public School System board members have approved a new policy impacting students walking to and from school.
School administration staff said the policy was first presented in June and created by staff to address students traveling on foot, bicycle or any means other than a vehicle.
Principals within the Wake County Public School System currently have the ability to mandate rules and guidelines to restrict students of certain ages and students who walk a path with higher risks and safety concerns.
In general, the new policy allows students in second grade and older to walk without an adult. Where certain walking restrictions are in place, parents will also have a consistent process to give consent to their child’s principal that would allow them to walk to and from school unoccupied.
“I think there’s always the concern about safety and making sure kids are safe as they walk or bike to school,” said Wake NCAE President Christina Spears.
Spears said the new policy adds an extra measure of security for families and schools. She said, “Knowing how well administrators and educators take care of students, like when we have our carpool list and who’s getting on the bus, now we have a clear list of who’s walking, who’s grabbing their bike off of the bike rack… It’s just another way to keep kids safe and I hope parents feel more secure.”
Some concerns for parents
Spears also noted concerns of the dangers in certain areas — particularly at Apex Friendship where students have been hit by cars when walking. Spears said it will take more resources to create safer walkways, trails and crosswalks to prioritize the issue.
North Carolina schools are not required to provide school transportation if students live within about a mile to the school’s campus.
In certain cases, principals can still object a parent’s written consent for their child to walk alone if they believe there is a high safety concern. This would also require additional approval from the transportation department. In addition, the school district could take “appropriate measures to address the concern” that could include school reassignment.
For parents like Winter Gunnell, she believes there are pros and cons to the new policy.
“The pros are that your kids are getting exercise, they’re learning to be a little bit more independent… But if parents are unable to help their kids get to school, then you also run the risk of, you know, anything can happen these days,” said Gunnell.
She added, “Kids sometimes really don’t pay attention to everything that’s going on around them, so that’s also a risk—just traffic and congestion and things like that… There’s no way in the world I world I would allow my child to walk to school without an adult present.”
Administration staff said the policy was created to provide schools a consistent process to notify parents of walking guidelines when safety issues are present, but it also “formalizes the process for parents/ guardians to provide written direction to the school requiring release of the student to walk unaccompanied.”
Furthermore, school administration staff said the board still requests parents to follow their school and principal’s recommendations.
You can read the full policy below: