A Town Eliminated The Worst Part Of Going To School. Spoiler Alert: Everyone Loves It.

Eric March Curator:

Let's face it: School can be rough when you're a kid. You wake up at the crack of dawn, you sit still for hours, and when you act out because you're bored and exhausted, you land in detention. But when kids have something to look forward to at the beginning and end of the day, turns out they're a whole lot more jazzed about the experience. And their teachers and parents are way happier too. You definitely couldn't do this everywhere, but you could TOTALLY do it more places than it's currently being done. These folks are definitely on to something.

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I used to live in Lakewood for about a year and I happen to know that they didn't have any school buses and that they had arranged their schools so they were all within walking distance for their students, and I had never heard of that and I thought it was a really cool concept that people in other places might be interested.

Lakewood School District is a district of about 5,800 students. We're made up of seven elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school. We are one of Cleveland's inner ring suburbs. We started out as a street kind of community and a concentration of a downtown. And as we grew and would add schools, it was kind of a natural evolution that our students walk to school.

There's never been a school bus system here in Lakewood and for the same reasons that adults only have one car in their household. It just made sense because we've adopted the neighborhood school network.

Our community has a very strong sense of community, and they really do like the walking school district, and don't want the school buses. They like the idea that their children can walk to school.

I like seeing the other families. I feel like we see each other all the time. It's a big city, for the relative size of it, but I feel like I know everyone. So, it's a big social event every morning and afternoon.

The school is generally about a mile or two away from your house and so what that means is biking and walking is often times times the most convenient form of transportation for our students and when we talk to them about how they get to school and how they get home from school, they enjoy it more. So, they enjoy the walk home from school or the walk to school because they can get together with friends and sort of enjoy that period as opposed to being in a car, they're experiencing the city in a different way.

If I don't leave on time they get upset because they miss their social time and you know you walk to school and the kids are running and chasing and playing and laughing and it's a good thing. It's good for them to know what community is. I don't think they'd get that if they weren't walking.

When they're outside and they're walking to school, they're getting some of the jitters out of them in the morning. They're getting some fresh air and some exercise, so when they get to school they're ready to learn.

In 2013, we hosted our first annual Bike to School Day where we saw about 220 or so students bike to school. We hosted our first Bikes and Bands event. Bikes and Bands is a bike donation event where Lakewood residents can bring in their bikes that are in disrepair. We repair them, and provide those fixed up bikes to underprivileged youth, so they could ride on Bike to School Day and then use that as a form of transportation in the coming year.

Lakewoodites [SP] really do enjoy living here because people are out and about and talking to their neighbors and we do have a great sense of community here. I think that our students walking to schools to and from each day adds a lot to that quality.

We're actually the densest community between New York and Chicago. Little over 50,000 people in five and a half square miles. What that means is there's a lot of people packed into a small space. So, when you talk about doing your daily chores or doing recreation, most of the time, walking or biking is the most convenient form to get around. It doesn't always make sense to drive your car to the drug store because it's right down the street.

In a lot of ways the way we used to design schools back in the days, before cars were the primary mode of transportation, made them walk able. They're multi-storey, they're dense, they're in the middle of residential neighborhoods, and today we tend to build schools out on the periphery in undeveloped areas with large parking lots because the land costs are cheaper but over time the school incurs a lot of expenses related to transportation. So, the old way of doing things was better in a lot of ways and Lakewood, by preserving that, has made a smart decision for the long financial term.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

This mini-documentary was made for StreetFilms by Clarence Eckerson Jr. His Twitter bio claims he's "the hardest working man in transportation show biz," and I believe it.

Jun 05, 2014

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