The times, they are a changin’ at Des Moines Public Schools.

Bell times, that is, and after a duly methodical process of sharing information and gathering community input about the research-based proposal, the district is busy now with due diligence that will ensure a safe, orderly transition when school resumes in August.

On Thursday a task force comprised of 72 SUCCESS Case Managers, Community School Coordinators, and Bilingual Family Liaisons gathered at the Jesse Franklin Taylor Center to get maps and assignments before fanning out across the district to conduct “walk audits” of safe routes to and from neighborhood schools as designated by the City of Des Moines.

“We plan to be proactive in preparing for this change,” said DMPS Director of Community Schools Allyson Vukovich. “We intend to do everything we can and enlist as much help as possible from the whole community to make this work for our kids and their families.”

The squads of auditors walked their routes on the lookout for criteria like sidewalk conditions, driver behavior patterns, sightlines and lighting. Afterwards, everyone reconvened back at JFTC for debriefing to share notes and observations. Necessary tweaks will be made before school resumes so safe route maps can be provided for the families of district elementary students.

“We met with the Metropolitan Planning Organization and Wellmark and received some tools and guidance about how to conduct walk audits,” said Community School Coordinator Jill Padgett. “Wellmark is excited about the wellness aspect of walking to and from school, and we are also soliciting support from community partners for a night audit of the routes to assess conditions without daylight.”

When kids return to school, the whole community goes right along with them. Accordingly, the district is approaching the new bell times schedule as an all-hands-on-deck opportunity. Plans are in the works for programs like walking school buses where clusters of students who live at the same apartment complex can accompany one another. Neighborhood residents will be encouraged to turn on their porch lights before and after school when daylight is in short supply, becoming, in effect, an auxiliary force of crossing guards without even leaving home. Early rising high school students, whose start times will be later, may choose to escort elementary students along their walking routes and accrue hours toward community service silver graduation cords. Also, the elementary school counseling curriculum will include pedestrian safety protocols.

Educate yourself about the plan at the link below and start thinking about ways that you can be an agent of this positive change.

In geometry, students learn that the shortest distance between two points, like home and school, is a straight line. But what’s the safest? Together, everyone can help teach them that.

A reminder that the new school hours at Des Moines Public Schools, beginning with the 2018-19 school year, are as follows:

  • MIDDLE SCHOOLS: 8:30 AM – 3:25 PM
  • HIGH SCHOOLS: 8:25 AM – 3:25 PM

For more information visit

Video from the Walking Route Audit

Photos from the Walking Route Audit
Scout the Route

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