By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — On a crisp October Tuesday morning, students and their parents didn’t let the chill deter their plans to be healthy as they wrapped themselves in jackets, laced up their tennis shoes and walked or biked to school.
As part of Roosevelt Elementary School’s effort to keep their students healthy, the Safe, Healthy and Fit Committee signed the school up to participate in National Walk or Bike to School Day.
Promoted by the National Center for Safe Routes to School, the official national event will occur today. Tom Menzie, Roosevelt PE teacher said the school hosted their Walk to School Day early because Norman Public Schools will be closed today due to professional development.
Walk to School Day began in 1997 to encourage physical activity and raise awareness for safe, walkable communities, especially for children. National Walk or Bike to School Day encourages schools to participate because it promotes healthier habits by getting children to exercise, helps make the environment cleaner by reducing air-polluting emissions from cars and fosters community benefits like reducing traffic congestion, boosting a sense of community and improving neighborhood connections.
In Oklahoma, 74 schools signed up to participate in this year’s Walk or Bike to School Day. Menzie said Roosevelt had participated in the program for about six years and the school hosts a Walk to School event in the fall and the spring.
“We always teach healthy habits, and walking to school is just another way to reinforce this,” Menzie said.
For numerous communities, the benefits of Walk or Bike to School Day continue long past the event.
According to the National Center for Safe Routes to School, 39 percent of Walk to School events led to the addition of crossing guards, 32 percent led to more safe walking or bicycling signs and 31 percent resulted in more sidewalks, paths or crosswalks.
Menzie said, last year, about half the students participated and several neighborhoods — including Grandview, Cascade and Castle Rock — had formed groups and made signs to celebrate the event.
“We hope people will continue to walk to school the entire month,” Menzie said.
The National Center for Safe Routes to School provides schools with ideas on how to sustain interest in walking and biking to school, such as educating parents and children on pedestrian safety skills so they become confident enough to continue walking.
Second-grade student Joshua Lameda said he was having a lot of fun walking to school with friends from his neighborhood.
“Walk to School Day presents a great opportunity for children and families in our area to get outside and move together,” said Meagan Carter of the Wellness Now coalition. “It’s a fun way for kids to get physical activity with family and friends, all while demonstrating community and school spirit.”
For more information about Walk or Bike to School Day, visit walkbiketoschool.org.