Many step forward for National Walk to School Day

rpulley@lsjournal.comOctober 7, 2016 

Madelyn Clapp had lots of company walking to school Tuesday. Her neighbors, Anna Peason and Lyn Carroll, marched to Longview Elementary School, along with many of her classmates.

They didn’t miss the bus.

The annual International Walk to School Day was Oct. 5, and several Lee’s Summit schools participated, including Meadow Lane Elementary, Lee’s Summit Elementary and Longview.

“It’s so much fun,” Pearson said. “It is a swarm of kids and parents.”

Pearson and Carroll were standing in for Madelyn’s parents, who had to be at work. The schools arranged meeting places for the students to gather then walk with parents or chaperones to ensure safety.

Madelyn said she likes this day because the whole school participates.

“I enjoy it because I get to see all my friends and get to walk,” said Madelyn, adding that she’d like to walk more often. “I wouldn’t get to school as quickly, but it would be nice.”

Lisa Grider, parent of sixth-grader Olivia Grider, was among that herd of students and parents who gathered at the pool at Meadows of Winterset, about a mile and a half from the school. It was her ninth year participating — and her last. Olivia will be moving on to middle school. She said the walk was a fun thing to bring the community together.

As they strode along Longview Road, more and more subdivisions added to the stream, with most of nearly 600 students at the school participating.

Principal Ryan Rostine said it’s been a tradition at Longview for 12 years.

His building is one where it’s relatively simple to plan a safe route, because nearly all of the subdivisions in its attendance area are south of Longview Road.

There’s only one busy intersections for students to cross, and Rostine gets assistance from the police department to monitor that spot. Each year he plots the course and sends out a notice letting parents know about the day and asking for volunteer parents to walk with children. Eight school buses make their routes anyway.

“Every fall, it’s funny, you’ll see buses going through neighborhoods, and there’s nobody on them,” Rostine said.

The schools choosing to participate have varied over the years.

Eric Vaughn, a Lee’s Summit resident who works for BikeWalkKC and is on the Lee’s Summit Liveable Streets Advisory Board, said the group wants to encourage participation.

“Part of the idea is to show youth what they’re capable of,” Vaughn said. “Many grew up being dropped at the school front door.”

BikeWalkKC works with the Mid-America Regional Council regionally to promote the event.

Vaughn said that nationally 3 to 4 percent of schools participate, but in the Kansas City area, the number is about 18 percent. Still they’d like to see that increase.

Often, schools will have curriculum or assemblies built around the event to explain the health benefits of being healthy.

Some schools manage to participate even if they don’t have infrastructure to make it easy.

In Roeland Park, Vaughn said, students are bused to City Hall, where they’re met by teachers who walk with them to a neighborhood school, providing them a safe trip.

At Meadow Lane Elementary, parents brought their children to the parking lot of the Community of Christ Church on Independence Avenue.

Students had hot chocolate and snacks, then made the several blocks jaunt to school.

Interest in walking for Meadow Lane had doubled over last year.

Last year there were 50 participants; this Wednesday there were nearly 100.

“Every year it’s gotten bigger,” said Wendy Berdych, a PTA volunteer who has organized the walk for the past several years.

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