Yesterday was Dunwoody Walk to School Day, an annual event that traditionally kicks-off the walk to school programs at each of Dunwoody’s five elementary schools. Hundreds of students – many joined by their parents – made the choice to bypass the carpool lanes in favor of walking to school.
Dunwoody’s walk to school programs have their roots at Kingsley Charter Elementary School, which staged its first Walking Wednesday on April 1, 2009. This, coincidently, also happened to be the first official day of operation for the new Dunwoody Police Department, and one of the department’s very first public acts was to participate in Kingsley’s event. Police Chief Billy Grogan walked to school with the Kingsley students that day, and the walkers were escorted by a shiny new police cruiser with lights flashing. The DPD has been a great friend and partner to Dunwoody’s Walk to School efforts ever since, enforcing traffic laws near our schools to keep our students safe.
Since that day, walk to school efforts have evolved and spread throughout the city. Kingsley is now joined by Austin, Chesnut, DES and Vanderlyn as schools with active and vibrant walk to school programs. As Dunwoody continues to become more pedestrian and bike safe with the addition of sidewalks and bike lanes, more students than ever have the opportunity to SAFELY walk or bike to school in our community.
So what’s the big deal about walking to school? You can point to the various studies that show students that have 20 minutes of moderate physical activity to start their day perform better on tests, are more attentive in class, retain more of what they learn and have fewer behavior issues in school. You could recognize that more students walking to school translates to fewer cars on the road, making the morning commute easier on everyone.
But the most important reason in my opinion to walk to school is simple – It’s FUN! Walking Wednesdays are more than just a way to get to school, they are events that often include contests, prizes, special guest walkers, music, cheerleaders and even superheroes. Students get the chance to walk to school with their friends in a parade-like atmosphere. Parents join in on the fun too…walking and talking with friends and meeting new neighbors. And why not try walking home from school as well - this is a great opportunity to spend some quality time with your child, learn about their day and get some exercise in the process (an added bonus).
I love Walk to School Days! I do think it's important, though, to recognize the difficulty that some school populations have with this idea. At DES, a ridiculous proportion of the school population lives over 2 miles away from the school...and a walk for them FROM HOME entails venturing for at least a mile along heavily trafficked roads. These roads are driven on by people going to work (Womack, Vermack, Chamblee-Dunwoody, Peeler, Ashford-Dunwoody) and not just driving to school.ReplyDelete
The competition to have the highest percentage of student walkers is great IN THEORY...but for some, it seems forced and silly to drive a mile and a half to get out of your car and walk a mile. I loved doing it...but in reality, I'm not sure it always accomplishes what we hope it will.
Kudos to those who live in smaller walk-to communities who get out and enjoy the walk through the neighborhoods!