On Wednesday, Oct. 2, the North Carolina PTA is promoting National Walk to School Day across the state – and Sternberger Elementary at 518 N. Holden Road in Greensboro is one of six schools in North Carolina that will be a focal point for promoting the practice of walking to school.
The annual national day is meant to promote safe walking routes to and from schools. Walking is healthy for kids and it also saves gas, cuts down on pollution and provides other benefits.
On Wednesday, Sternberger students who live near the school are encouraged to walk to school rather than take the bus or get driven to school by their parents. Even kids who live a long way from the school are encouraged to get off at a designated parking lot near the school where they, with the assistance of police officers and school officials, will walk a short distance to the school.
Sternberger is attempting to make the day a celebration in other ways as well.
National Walk to School Day is officially recognized on October 2, but activities pertaining to the day take place across the country throughout the month of October.
According to a press release from the NC PTA, “Walk to School Day and its sister event Bike to School Day (which takes place every May) bring attention to the benefits of taking an active route to school, and are coordinated by the National Center for Safe Routes to School. Elected officials and community members are often invited to attend to bring further awareness to the challenges and opportunities that exist in making transportation alternatives a reality.”
This year, the NC PTA is actively supporting events at six schools in North Carolina: At Sternberger in Greensboro and at schools in Durham, Creedmoor, Chapel Hill, Rolesville and Wendell.
According to statistics provided by the NC PTA, in 1969 about 48 percent of students between the ages of 5 and14 walked or biked to school; however, in recent years that number has dropped to about 13 percent.
Nationally, returning to 1969 levels of walking and biking to school would save 3.2 billion vehicle miles, 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide and 89,000 tons of other pollutants. That’s the equivalent of keeping about 250,000 cars off the road for a year. More kids walking would also cut down on traffic congestion: Studies estimate that about 25 percent of morning traffic can be attributed to children being driven to schools in private vehicles.
I went to Freeport Elementary School in Sacramento, CA and walked a mile each way every day (no hills or snow). Mom walked with me for the first few days of kindergarten then followed me for a couple of days while I walked “alone” to be sure I got to school safely. After that, I was on my own.
In high school, my girlfriend and I walked 1.7 miles to and from school when I lived in Mission Viejo, CA unless it was raining (“it never rains in California”) and then we rode the bus. It took longer to go by bus than to walk home so walking was the better choice.
When I did take the bus to school I had to walk to a bus stop that was usually a couple of blocks away from my house to join other kids in the neighborhood to be picked up.
I was gobsmacked when I first came to NC and saw school buses stopping in front of every house and the loooong lines of cars in front of schools to drop off or pick up kids. It was something I just didn’t understand. I do now get it in rural areas where kids live far apart or would have to walk on dangerous highways to get to a common bus stop. Where kids have sidewalks I still don’t understand why more aren’t walking to school or common stops to take the bus to school, and I don’t understand why most kids don’t take the bus to school instead of driving themselves or having a parent take them to school. Kids are being spoiled and have been denied the social skills learned from riding a bus or walking with friends during their school years.