Here’s a crazy idea for reducing traffic congestion at Janesville schools: Encourage parents to make their kids walk to school.

Redesigning and upgrading pick-up and drop-off points to accommodate more traffic should be the last thing school officials consider because of the large costs involved. Plus, upgrades would send the wrong message to parents, likely enticing even more to drive their kids to school.

The district needs to get creative, and one solution would be to launch an informational campaign to get more children to use bipedal modes of transportation.

Some communities have made getting to school an event with “walking” school buses, essentially chains of children escorted by adult chaperons. The idea is to get kids thinking about using their legs instead of a car to get to school. On the way to school, chaperons educate kids about pedestrian safety and point out potential hazards on their routes. It’s a good way to build kids’ confidence about walking, which some parents worry is dangerous nowadays.

The irony is walking to school is probably safer than driving.

School officials say many parents ignore the rules at pick-up and drop-off points, sometimes double and triple parking along busy streets. This leads to kids dashing between vehicles — accidents waiting to happen. Kids who walk to school avoid this messy scene by using crosswalks where crossing guards help protect them.

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Along with encouraging more walking, the district should consider locating pick-up and drop-off points two or three blocks from schools to spread out traffic and reduce congestion near school grounds. School officials could assign different grades to use different drop-off and pick-up points, with older grades farther from schools and younger grades nearer schools.

Sure, some parents aren’t going to listen, and they’ll drop off and pick up their kids wherever and whenever they please. These parents are the problem. “The sad thing about it... is that it’s not some Joe Shmoe doing this; it’s the parents,” said Brian Donohoue, a security consultant for the district, about parents disobeying pick-up and drop-off rules.

Reducing traffic congestion at schools should be viewed as a long-term project. Informational campaigns would have to be ongoing and comprehensive, including extra instruction on dressing properly for the winter. Amazingly, some parents don’t understand the dangers of exposure to cold temperature, causing some districts to cancel school when temperatures dip barely below zero.

Schools educate students to read and write. Why not teach them to walk to school?

Some parents want the district to find new ways to accommodate more traffic, but the district should resist these calls and instead ask parents to help by not driving their kids to school.

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