By Moses Leos III
Like all parents getting ready for the first day of school, Suzy Robbins knew a lot of unknowns were ahead for her two children.
But there was something Robbins knew well before Hays CISD classes began on Aug. 25. As a resident of Garlic Creek in Buda, Robbins understood her third grade son wouldn’t be able to get bus service to school.
“We were disappointed. We were unsure about how the kids were going to get safely to school through that green space [between Garlic Creek and Elm Grove Elementary].”
With the help of her daughter’s Girl Scout troop, Robbins came up with a solution — a walking and biking group led by parent volunteers.
The idea was born when her daughter’s troop, 1713, brainstormed a community service project. They chose to make the path from Garlic Creek to Elm Grove Elementary safer.
According to Robbins, the issues were two fold. One was the lack of lighting along the path. In addition, two holding ponds near the pedestrian bridge were a cause for concern.
“We just felt that it could be a place where there are no houses, so no one’s watching the children as they walk through the area,” Robbins said. “That could be an area where mischief or bullying would take place.”
The troop came up with a two-part plan. The first called for implementing a light structure and the hiring of a crossing guard on the pedestrian bridge. Robbins said the troop canvassed Garlic Creek, petitioning to take their idea to the Hays CISD school board.
Part two, which the troop did on their own, involved creating the walking group.
Robbins and the troop presented the proposal to the Hays CISD Board of Trustees in May during public comment.
Tim Savoy, Public Information Officer for Hays CISD, said the board acted on the issue as they had money in the existing budget for the proposal.
Savoy said the district is in the process of hiring a crossing guard for the bridge. Meanwhile, the district allocated funds to Buda for the construction of the light structure. The city will also be tasked with maintaining the light.
“The district is very proud of the Girl Scouts for being proactive,” Savoy said.
The troop, according to Robbins, planned for a light to be attached for the bridge. Buda has not implemented the light structure.
Troop 1713 then focused on starting the walking and biking group.
The group, called the Hiking and Biking Eagles, is based on the Walking School Bus nationwide program. Parents can walk their children to three stations in the neighborhood. From there, volunteers, all of whom are given Hays CISD background checks, walk the children to Elm Grove.
“The girls and I talked about how we can make sure [the kids] could be safe,” Robbins said. “We decided this is volunteering for the school. They should follow the protocol.”
Through online sign-ups, parents to determine to which station they will go. From there, the volunteers take over and walk the children to campus.
It’s a move Robbins said could reduce some of the traffic woes surrounding Elm Grove Elementary. She said traffic “doubled” during the first week as many parents drove their kids to school.
“It’s backed up [on FM 1626] and goes far in all directions,” she said. “It’s increased traffic in that neighborhood.”
Robbins said parents are communicating with those wanting to sign up. She said ten parents have signed up thus far as volunteers.
She expects that number to increase as the school year moves forward.
“Once things settle down and people get into a routine, they will be more interested in doing this,” Robbins said.