Walking/Biking School Bus Routes
At the end of March, SPARK is holding a Pilot Walking Week in which we test out four new Walking School Bus Routes. A Walking School Bus is a group of children that walk to school together in the morning with their parents. We have created routes with timetables so that families can meet up on the way to school. All routes have been designed to reach the SPARK Parking Lot on Briarcliff Rd around 7:30am and will be lead by parent/guardian volunteers. Here is info for the routes:
Route Name Route Starting Location Route Starting Time Route Distance and Total Time
PURPLE ROUTE North Highland Ave and Amsterdam Ave 7:02am 1.1 miles, 28 min walk
BLUE ROUTE Inman Middle School 6:55am 1.4 miles, 35 min walk
RED ROUTE Poncey-Highland Playground 7:05am 1.0 miles, 25 min walk
ORANGE ROUTE 10th Street and Charles Allen Dr 7:10am 1.9 miles, 20 min bike ride
SPARK will also have a Park & Walk area on St. Charles Place and St. Augustine Place, two streets that intersect Briarcliff Rd just south of SPARK. For parents that choose to drive, they can park on either of these roads and then walk the 0.1 - 0.4 mile distance to SPARK. After parking, it should only take about 5 minutes to walk to school, including crossing Briarcliff Rd at St. Charles Place.
Pilot Walking Week is being held Monday, March 28th - Friday, April 1st. The route times vary, but this event is being held from 6:55am until 7:45am every day that week. Choose which day you would like to participate in depending on the route and the proximity to your home.
SPARKY and a special guest will be leading every route one day of this week. Here is when you can see these special guests:
Day Guest Route Starting Location
Monday, 3/28 Ms. Bringslid ORANGE ROUTE 10th St and Charles Allen Drive
Tuesday, 3/29 Councilmember Alex Wan BLUE ROUTE Inman MS at Virg. Ave & Ponce de Leon Pl.
Wednesday, 3/30 Principal Harness PURPLE ROUTE North Highland Ave and Amsterdam Ave
Thursday, 3/31 Councilman Amir Farokhi RED ROUTE Poncey-Highland Playground along North Ave
Friday, 4/1 Sherry Galvez, her dog Theo North Highland Park North Highland Ave and St. Charles Place
We'll also have fruit for the kids when they get to school and posters where parents can take their child's photo. Plus we'll have raffle prizes for the kids that participate.
Especially since the Omicron wave, many more parents have been driving their children to school, with estimates as high as half of parents driving into SPARK's parking lot. We want parents to have another way to bring their children to school that doesn't involve bumper-to-bumper traffic in the parking lot and on Briarcliff Rd.
In past years, SPARK has held Walk to School Day and Bike to School Day, as well as Green Transportation Day. These were fun days for everyone, but didn't have much of an impact on changing how kids get to school. We are hoping that by making this a full week, not only will more people be able to participate, but SPARK families will be more likely to get into a longer-term habit of walking and biking to school.
Of the nearly 90 bus stop locations for SPARK kids, these four routes get to within two blocks of most stops. Based on your child's assigned bus, here are the suggested routes. (Keep in mind that the ORANGE ROUTE is a biking route because of its length.)
Assigned Bus Suggested Route
635 ORANGE ROUTE
670 RED ROUTE
719 ORANGE ROUTE
738 BLUE ROUTE or PURPLE ROUTE
16-809 BLUE ROUTE or ORANGE ROUTE
19-923 PURPLE ROUTE
20-969 ORANGE ROUTE
20-970 BLUE ROUTE or ORANGE ROUTE
Many parents like to drive their child to school and then immediately need to get to work. Believe it or not, you may actually save time parking and walking in with your child rather than going through the SPARK parking lot. Many parents are already doing this instead of waiting in the traffic on Briarcliff Rd. A few months ago, GDOT shortened the cycle time for the light at Briarcliff Rd and St. Charles Place during school hours. This means that you'll only have to wait at most one minute to get a walk signal to cross Briarcliff.
Like a bus route, each of these routes has a timetable showing when we expect a group to reach a certain point on the way to school.
You can also use the Remind App to give and receive text updates on a specific route each day. We will have parent volunteers taking each route from the starting point and sending out Remind updates as they go.
Here are the links to join the Remind routes:
The K Center is not as close to SPARK families because of its location on Briarcliff Rd. With the amount of traffic on Briarcliff Rd and the narrow sidewalks, the K Center is just not that walkable for families.
However, please don't feel like your Kindergartener has been left out! Any Kindergarteners who walk to the main SPARK campus this week will be able to take a special bus to the K Center. Dr. Toney will be assisting to make sure that all Kindergarteners make it onto this bus, which will leave from the bus loop on Ponce de Leon Ave at 7:35am. To get there from the Briarcliff Rd parking lot, walk your child down the parking lot sidewalk, then go right to go down past the gym and the cafeteria to reach the bus lot.
Parents may also choose to drop of kids at the Main Campus and then walk down Briarcliff Rd to the K Center with their Kindergartner.
Most SPARK families are within 1.5 miles of school, a short enough distance to conveniently walk or bike. Research shows that children who walk or bike to school are more alert and ready to learn, even having increased concentration levels for up to four hours. They're healthier too because they are getting more physical exercise and are more engaged with their streets and neighborhoods.
By choosing to walk to school, you'll help reduce the traffic congestion around SPARK and will be getting exercise at the same time! You'll also be able to meet other SPARK families and spend quality time with your child in the morning.
Please watch the videos that will be posted in the SPARK-e in which SPARKY goes on each of the routes. Look for signs and chalk markings to stay on the recommended path to school. Use the timetables to meet other families along the way if you're not taking the full route.
If enough SPARK families take part in this, we will work to have volunteers regularly walk or bike on these routes in the future. We'd also try to have Principal Harness and other SPARK teachers join families on these routes at least once per month. We'd like to push SPARK to make other changes to promote walking around the school as well.
You can, but it will be difficult to stay with the main group, which will be moving at a different speed from you. The route timetables assume you are biking on the ORANGE ROUTE and walking on the other routes.
We will be blocking off at least 5 feet of space in the parking lot next to the sidewalk to create additional space for both bikers and walkers. (This will not affect the number of parking spaces available.) Please walk your bike along this lane and then help your child park their bike on one of the green bike racks near the Front Office.
Keep in mind that Daylight Savings Time begins Sunday, March 13th, so sunrise times during Pilot Walking Week won't be until about 7:30am. We recommend that you and your child wear bright clothing while on these routes to easily be seen on the way to SPARK. To learn more road safety tips, watch this video by Georgia Safe Routes to School.
Cars produce a lot of emissions that pollute our air and harm our respiratory systems, especially those of children. Children regularly exposed to these pollutants are more likely to suffer from asthma and other ailments, along with impacted neurological development. Parents that drive their children into the school parking lot often idle their cars for 5 to 10 minutes, which wastes gas and produces toxic fumes.
Being near the intersection of Ponce de Leon Ave and Briarcliff Rd, SPARK is one of the most heavily trafficked schools in Atlanta. Both of these roads have at least 25,000 vehicles on them every day. Trying to drive to the parking lot on Briarcliff Rd is not only frustratingly slow, but also results in further backing up traffic. This makes it difficult and less safe for families that walk or bike to school to cross Briarcliff because the crosswalks often get blocked by vehicles.
We can't make this traffic go away, but we can choose to not add to it by walking or biking to SPARK.
You can volunteer to lead a route by committing to walk from the route starting point for one or more days. Anyone who volunteers to lead a route for all five days will get a SPARK t-shirt and also one for their child! You can also volunteer to greet families near school. Please contact Tracy Janov (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
Your child's teacher will be sending out a survey to help us track interest on each route during Pilot Walking Week. Remember to fill out the survey, which will automatically enter your child into a raffle to win prizes.