By: Scott Cook

Email: scook@abc6.com

Twitter: @JScottCook

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WLNE) -- A new school bus rolled into Agnes Little Elementary School in Pawtucket Thursday morning, but it wasn't your standard bright–yellow, 4–wheeled vehicle that drives on the road.

It was a group of volunteers, dressed in bright–yellow safety vests walking kids to class.

"Within a mile radius of this elementary school, children aren't bused in," said Margaret Holland McDuff of Family Service Rhode Island.

"So they often times have to cross busy streets and often times parents can't walk their kids to school and make it into work on time," Holland McDuff continued. "So the Walking School Bus and its volunteers are critical to making sure kids make it to school on time and safely."

Little Elementary's 'Walking School Bus' made its debut Thursday with special guests like Spongebob, Mickey Mouse, Paws and Sox welcoming walkers to class.

"We want the children to feel as if there is somebody with them to help them make decisions," said Patti DiCenso, superintendent of Pawtucket School. 

"And they can still have fun on the way to school, but there will be someone there to protect them," DiCenso continued. 

Family Service Rhode Island started the program 6 years ago in Providence schools. It has since expanded to urban parts of Central Falls and now Pawtucket.

"The Walking School Bus gets kids to school on time, safely in urban settings, and gets them exercise," said Margaret Holland McDuff.

It also hopes to reduce the number of absences while building community relationships.

"It's so important that we are rigorous, 21st century learners," said Patti DiCenso. "But nothing happens in a school or in a class without relationships. And this is furthering the relationship between families and students to let them know we're coming to get you and bringing you to school."

A $2,000 community grant will pay for volunteer training.

Pawtucket Schools hope to expand the 'Walking School Bus' to 4 more school by the start of next school year.

© WLNE-TV 2018