Submitted by Millo Fenzi of Woodside, a member of the Woodside Elementary School Site Council and leader of the school's Safe Routes Initiative.
October was International Walk to School month. This annual event promotes physical activity, concern for the environment, and taking back neighborhoods for people on foot.
Woodside Elementary School chose Oct. 27 as its Walk to School day. A school bus methodology was used: a volunteer parent "bus driver" leads a group of children on foot, with more parents scattered through the "bus" and bringing up the rear. Eleven volunteer parent "bus drivers" lead walking, cycling, and equestrian buses.
Four hundred and forty-three students arrived at school on time on Walk to School day. Of those, an astounding 241 walked to school. Another 23 rode bikes. Five rode horses. Forty-eight took carpools, electric cars, or a bus.
A phenomenal 317 of the 443 students walked, biked, bused, carpooled, took an e-car or rode a horse to school. That's 83 percent of the entire student body. In addition, 91 parents rode or walked with their children. At arrival, participants were greeted with steaming hot chocolate; a perfect compliment to the brisk morning temperature.
Both the second and fourth grades had better than 90 percent participation in the event. The students in 2A and 4A had the highest participation in the school at 94 percent. Fifteen of the 16 2A students walked to school that day and 17 of the 18 4A students walked, carpooled or biked.
Participating parents sent in the following event highlights: The pride that our boys felt in getting themselves to school under their own power was so evident. It had a great vibe for socializing -- not the social pressure of a party, not the usual small talk of school dropoff, more of a we're-all-in-this-together-and-it's-really-fun neighborhood feeling.
The best part was seeing the smiles on the faces of the kids as they walked along together, chattering the whole time. Walking did not take anywhere near as long as we thought that it would. It was great to interact with other parents who live on my block but whom I never see.
A teacher declared that her class was much calmer than typical as a result of burning off all that energy in the morning.
Some onlookers commented that seeing the horses brought back memories of years gone by when parents regularly rode to school with their children then tied their horses up at Buck's and ate breakfast before riding back home.
The direct and collateral benefits of the Walk-to-School day were so overwhelmingly positive that the community intends to make this a regular monthly event.
To find out more about Woodside Elementary School's Safe Routes Initiative, contact Millo Fenzi at firstname.lastname@example.org.