Students across Montgomery County bypassed their school buses and carpools and walked to school Wednesday in celebration of International Walk to School Day.
They were joined by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and other political leaders at Kensington Parkwood Elementary School in Kensington, to highlight a new program at the school: School Pool.
The program matches parents and students who would like to share the responsibility of walking students to school using a “walking school bus” or a bike train.
“I was very pleased with the turnout, and the event in general. I don’t have an exact percentage, but almost every child participated. At least 90% because we had the buses drop our students off at the starting point of the walk,” Principal Barbara Liess wrote in an email. “We are just starting the School Pool, today was our kick-off to introduce the program. Parents were sent the application last night along with information regarding the program. We are hopeful that our families will participate by creating walking or biking “school buses” and limit the number of cars at arrival and dismissal.”
Walk to School Day, organized by the Partnership for a Walkable America, began in the United States in 1997 as a one-day event aimed at building awareness for the need for walkable communities, according to the website www.walkbiketoschool.org.
Other reasons to encourage walking to school, according to the website, are to encourage healthier habits and promote clean air.
In 2000, the event became international when the United Kingdom and Canada joined the U.S. for the first International Walk to School Day. Growing interest in the program led the International Walk to School Committee to shifts its promotion to International Walk to School Month, celebrated in October.
More than 40 schools across Montgomery County registered their Walk to School Day activities on the website. All are Montgomery County Public Schools elementary schools.
The Kensington Parkwood program included a program for students in kindergarten through second grade about safe walking and a videos for the older students about safe biking, Assistant Principal Alayna Lynam said.
The success of Walk to School Day, as well as continued interest in bicycling to school, according to the website, created a desire for a national event focused on bicycling to school. The first National Bike to School Day took place on May 9, 2012 in coordination with the League of American Bicyclists’ National Bike Month.