Rabbis Walk to Promote School Attendance Joined by School Superintendent for Family Service of Rhode Island’s «Walking School Bus»

A Family Service of Rhode Island Walking School Bus route was led this morning (Tuesday, November 10, 2015) by a number of rabbis, including the president of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island.


Joining the rabbis was Providence School Superintendent Chris Maher.


The Walking School Bus program, created by Family Service of Rhode Island in 2012, currently provides supervised walking routes at Bailey, D’Abate, Fogarty, Kizarian, Lima and Young/Woods elementary schools in Providence. The program serves students not eligible to take the bus because they live within a mile of school.


The rabbis and superintendent participated in a route for Fogarty Elementary on Oxford Street in the South Providence neighborhood. Family Service of Rhode Island launched the Walking School Bus program in 2012 at Fogarty because data showed that most of the school’s families with attendance issues lived a relatively short distance from school. Barriers to attendance included health, parental work schedules, and other issues.


Margaret Holland McDuff, Family Service of Rhode Island CEO, thanked the rabbis and School Superintendent Maher for their support. «Having the support of these community leaders will help us grow the Walking School Bus to serve more and more children,» she said.  «We are hoping to continue to build upon our volunteer base.»  There were 37 volunteers during the last school year.


«We deeply appreciate the commitment of these respected Providence rabbis in supporting the Walking School Bus program and our efforts to reduce chronic student absenteeism,» said Superintendent Maher. «Dedicated community partners like these, willing to generously give of their time, are essential to supporting Providence schools as we work to provide a great education for all of our students.»


Rabbi Sarah Mack, of Temple Beth-El, Providence, and president of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island, said, «The Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island is so pleased to support the Walking School Bus program as a reflection of our tradition’s commitment to social justice.  We look forward to sharing this opportunity with our communities and recognize that each step we take this morning is holy as we work to repair the world.»


She was joined this morning by Rabbi Barry Dolinger, of Providence’s Congregation Beth Sholom, who noted that the Walking School Bus is «the kind of project that is creative and strategic, working to change paradigms, but also to break down barriers and build human connections in the process.  It’s beautiful and inspiring, and I can’t wait to get more involved and share it with our community.»


Also participating was Rabbi Elan Babchuck of Temple Emanu-El in Providence. «Temple Emanu-El is thrilled to be a part of this important Walking School Bus initiative!» he said. «We’re grateful that Family Service of Rhode Island created this program, as it gives our broader community the opportunity to put our values into practice. Most importantly, we hope that this is only the beginning of a long and sustained relationship, and that our communities will strengthen our ties over time, as well.»


Anyone interested in volunteering should call 401-331-1350 ext. 3457 or email ariasan@familyserviceri.org. The Walking School Bus has a Facebook page: www.facebook.com/PCIWalkingSchoolBus/


Ms. Holland McDuff noted that the rabbis are participants in Family Service of Rhode Island’s «Partners In Service» (PINS) program, that links faith communities, businesses and others in the community to support families in crisis being served by the agency’s Family Care Community Partnerships program staff.  «We are most grateful that the rabbis are expanding their partnership with Family Service of Rhode Island to heighten assistance to children and families in need.»


Family Service of RI is a statewide non-profit human service and educational organization.  More information is available at www.familyserviceri.org.

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