Evanston elementary schools participate in International Walk to School Day
October 3, 2012
Evanston/Skokie District 65 elementary school students skipped the bus in favor of walking on Wednesday as part of International Walk to School Day.
Every D65 elementary school was registered to participate, said Pat Markham, the district's communications director. International Walk to School Day, which began in 1997, has evolved into a yearlong awareness of the safest routes to school, according to the event's website. In addition to encouraging safety, the effort aims to promote physical fitness in children and their parents and to create a cleaner environment by reducing carbon dioxide emissions, reducing traffic and fostering neighborhood connections.
"It has value as a green event and as a lifestyle event," said Beth Perez, co-president of the Washington Elementary School Parent Teacher Association. "But for me, the community aspect is most important."
This year's Walk to School Day came after Evanston formed the Pedestrian Safety Committee this June, composed of city engineers, traffic consultants, Evanston Police officials and members of Northwestern’s Traffic Safety Institute.
The committee held a workshop in July to present its suggestions for Evanston. The group sent police and firefighters to distribute stickers to kids walking or biking to their first day of school in September.
Perez said International Walk to School Day serves as a reminder of how regularly the streets are used, which encourages Evanston residents to keep them safe. Despite the overcast and rainy weather Wednesday morning, Perez said her many in her neighborhood participated.
"It brings us all out into our neighborhoods, which is nice," she added.
Prior to International Walk to School Day, buses received special requests from schools to stop a few blocks from school entrances to encourage kids to walk the rest of the way, said Kelly Hudsons, Markham’s assistant.
Markham said Walker Elementary School, 3601 Church St., encourages all students to meet at the tennis courts in a nearby park before the bell and then walk to class together.
Beth Tucker, co-president of the Lincolnwood Elementary School PTA, said last year marked the first time the school participated. She said parents brought their kids to a park near the school before school to walk together. Students did the same thing this year, Tucker added.
Liz Krupkin, a former co-president of the Lincolnwood PTA, said her children participated last year but unfortunately could not this year due to a before-school program.
“But every day my older kid walks to school, and I walk my two younger kids to school,” she said.
As part of the event, students can also walk or bike during school breaks or periods such as recess. Markham pointed out that students at Park School, 828 Main St., do just that on most other days of the year.
“Last year, after the bell rang, kids went outside to walk or use their mobility devices, like wheelchairs,” she said.