Come around to the Ariel school in Ra'anana at 7:50 a.m. each morning and you'll see a sight which will probably bring a smile to your face. As many as 150 pupils of the school now walk together to school instead of coming separately each in their own pollution- emitting cars.
It began as a joint initiative of the school and the municipality in April, British new immigrant Glenis Bertfield told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
Bertfield and her husband Lawrence are one of five or six parents or grandparents who collect groups of 15-30 pupils from various pick-up points along the way and walk them to school. The longest walk is about 20 minutes, she said. They start gathering at 7:15 and start walking at 7:30, arriving promptly at 7:50 - five minutes before the bell.
Bertfield and her husband made aliya from Manchester a year ago and their grandchildren study at Ariel. They've jumped right in and gotten involved as well - they teach English in addition to volunteering with the walking bus.
With the new school year under way, they're looking to expand the "bus" to include even more people.
"We want to get even more kids to come walk with us, and to do that we need to make their parents aware of the possibility," she said.
Bertfield outlined several benefits to the "bus."
"It's safer, because there is always chaos around the school with everyone double-parked dropping off their kids. There was also an issue of kids wandering in late. We get them there before the bell at ten to eight," she told the Post by phone.
"There are also the health benefits and it's a good social experience. The kids really enjoy it and we do, too. It's a wonderful way to start the day," she added.
In addition, there are the environmental benefits of taking many cars off the roads each morning.
"We've seen parents get into the car to drive less than five minutes," Bertfield said.
Bertfield said they encourage the kids to walk home as well, but that there was no organized "walking bus" for the way back because many children go off to different afternoon activities.
The kids also have a tangible incentive to walk. Each day they walk, they receive a ticket. The child with the most tickets last year got an extra 10 to 15 minutes of recess.
This year, they're thinking about expanding it to the class with the most tickets and taking them on a trip at the end of the year as a reward, Bertfield said.