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Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools celebrate Walk to School Day

Students across the nation walked to school on Wednesday, marking the 20th anniversary of “Walk to School Day," an event slated for October 4 in the United States. 

This year, over 5,000 schools signed up to participate, the largest number since the event began in 1997, said Seth LaJeunesse, associate director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School. The Center coordinates Walk to School Day in America and, is also a part of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center. 

LaJeunesse said schools participate in the day for many reasons, including promotion of physical activity, obesity awareness, creation of family time and school spirit.

Many local Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools participated in Walk to School Day. Rashkis Elementary School had 100 percent participation and contacted the Chapel Hill Police Department to provide assistance.

Students began participating in the event at 7 a.m. said Ran Northam, community safety communications specialist at Town of Chapel Hill. Regular car and bus riders were dropped off behind the UNC Wellness Center and walked to Rashkis.

“We had two police officers on bicycles and one on a motorcycle leading the parade," he said. "We also had four police officer vehicles following the processional.” 

Morris Grove Elementary in Chapel Hill-Carrboro also participated.

“We love to promote healthy lifestyle choices to our students,” said Michael Brown, assistant principal at Morris Grove.

At the National Center for Safe Routes to School, the goal of the event is to shed light on issues involved in walking to school. 

“By trying out walking, people get to observe what the conditions are like in their community," LaJeunesse said. "They can identify changes that need to be made to make it more safe to walk.”

Jeff Nash, spokesperson for Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools, said Walk to School Day has become a local tradition. 

“It is a lot of fun for students and families, and also provides a unique learning opportunity,” he said.

Nash said many students and families really enjoy the event. 

“Some schools may have special events waiting when the students arrive, such as dancing and music,” he said.

People even came out of their homes to wave at the students from Rashkis, Northam said. 

“It was really great. People were in great spirits and we had great weather for it,” he said.

At Morris Grove, Walk to School Day was advertised in newsletters, flyers and signs around the school.

“It is a great program that many schools participate in," Brown said. "I am thrilled to be a part of it.” 

LaJeunesse said the day has positive effects.

“Though it is only one day, we have seen how this day, by engaging in walking to school and by participating in the day, often leads to longer term change,” he said.


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