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McKinney ISD takes part in International Walk to School Day
Chris Beattie/Staff Photo - McKinney ISD schools participated Wednesday in International Walk to School Day. Many made signs and banners signifying the healthy celebration.
That crowd of kids and adults trotting along neighborhood streets Wednesday wasn't an early-morning riot or sunrise protest. And it wasn't an isolated incident.
All over the world, similar swarms - students, parents and teachers - took to the sidewalks to recognize International Walk to School Day.
"We have about 90 percent of our schools that participate in this program," said Karin Klemm, McKinney ISD health and PE facilitator. "Many of the schools have their mascot participate and encourage the kids as they are walking. The students make signage and make the day a big day of fun as they are walking to school."
More than 3,300 schools across the U.S. walked or biked to school Wednesday, eager to promote healthy and "green" living. Transportation other than bus rides and carpools is better for students' health and the environment.
"Walk to School Day continues to inspire community-grown events that celebrate health, safety and a sense of community," said Lauren Marchetti, director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School (NCSRS), America's coordinating agency for the event. "Often, this one-day event becomes the catalyst to larger commitments and permanent improvements that make walking and bicycling to school safer transportation options year round."
The Partnership for a Walkable America established Walk to School Day in the U.S. in 1997, and three years later the country joined Great Britain and Canada to create International Walk to School Day.
By 2002, participants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and almost 3 million walkers worldwide celebrated the event. The one-day event has now grown to a month-long celebration.
"Each year the event continues to reinforce the importance of safer environments for walking and bicycling, more physical activity, fewer car trips, and a cleaner environment for students, parents and all community members," Marchetti said. "It also provides a unique opportunity for families to get outside and connect with their neighbors."
The NCSRS was started in 2006 to help communities ensure students a safe walk or bike ride to school. Participating communities often call for increased police patrol, and urge parents and teachers to walk along.
For some schools, like Finch Elementary near downtown McKinney, walking isn't always an option. Many Finch students live across Highway 5, thus only about 75 of 500 students walk or bike to school, said Assistant Principal Pam Voss.
"It's more about safety than anything, and there are not that many neighborhoods we service," Voss said. "If you live right over here (by the school), you shouldn't be having your parents pick you up."
At least for a day, Finch Elementary and dozens of other McKinney ISD schools took that advice. Many parents instead walked with their children.
Bright and early Wednesday, the Finch Falcon joined about 50 K-5 students, parents, siblings and school staff members at Towne Lake, about a 15-minute walk from the school. Proudly brandishing colorful Walk to School Day signs, they formed a human school bus.
"It's 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon if you walk to and from school," said Amie Bordelon, PE teacher at Finch Elementary. "That's a half-hour of physical activity, and parents can save on gas."
Bennett Elementary had a bigger turnout than last year, and is "planning to make this bigger and better every year with more involvement from the community," Klemm said.
Though thousands of schools made similar treks, McKinney ISD simply furthered its healthy standing.
Eight schools in the district are recognized nationally as a Healthy Zone School or Healthy Zone School in Training, through a program started two years ago to combat childhood obesity.
Wednesday's widespread participation was another example of the school district's commitment to health and wellness. And students are walking right along with it.
"This initiative is important as it gets the school community active and excited about walking and being active with their families," Klemm said. "I even had an [Eddins Elementary] parent comment to me that she's never seen her kids so excited about walking to school."
Cafeteria workers, administration, nurses - everyone's on board, Bordelon said. Teachers at Finch, a Healthy Zone in Training School, compete in a pedometer-measured "dot race" throughout the day, often sparking students to measure their own physical activity. Events like Walk to School Day may further ignite that mindset.
Perhaps this week's walk was indeed a protest of sorts - of obesity and environmental harm.
"When you promote things like this, it kick-starts them and makes them excited about it," Bordelon said. "It's a chain reaction - everyone's trying to change their school."