21 Aug 2014
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'Walk to School Day' About More Than Walking

The annual, international event has expanded to every elementary school in Elk Grove, and includes nutrition and safety events.

'Walk to School Day' About More Than Walking 'Walk to School Day' About More Than Walking 'Walk to School Day' About More Than Walking 'Walk to School Day' About More Than Walking 'Walk to School Day' About More Than Walking

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It first came to Elk Grove in 2002 as a way to promote pedestrian safety at a single school, but Walk to School Day has turned into something much bigger here. 

All 39 elementary schools in the Elk Grove Unified School District and many middle and high schools participated in the international event Wednesday, expanding it into efforts to encourage fitness, nutrition and safety.

At Elitha Donner Elementary School, students were greeted by Laguna High School cheerleaders and given free breakfast, the district sold low-cost produce to parents and students, and kids got talks about safety and visits from local police and fire fighters.

"It's definitely a lot more than what I was doing when I was a kid," parent Jason Fortik said as he watched a morning rally at the school.

Principal Michelle Jenkins said the health and safety fair-type event "shows [students that] school's more than walking into a classroom and opening a book."

"We try to instill [healthy] habits with the kids as they're young," she said.

Michelle Drake, the district's Director of Food and Nutrition Services, said the district sells produce basically at-cost during events like International Walk to School Day.

The district doesn't have specific statistics for the number of students who walk to school each day, but last year it received a $473,000 grant from the federal  Safe Routes to School program.

Trustee Priscilla Cox said several schools have expanded beyond the annual Walk to School Day to weekly events with cheap incentives like stickers or coffee for parents.

"Some schools have seen their attendance increase on days that are Walk to School days," Cox said.

Sydney Kajioka, a Laguna Creek junior high-fiving students as they arrived at Elitha Donner, said Walk to School Day was a good break from having her parents drive her to elementary school.

"I really enjoyed it," Kajioka said. "It was fun walking to school and being healthy for once." 

Guy Williams, an Elitha Donner parent, said his kindergartner has already picked up some of the basics from the event.

"She says, 'Is walking to school healthy?' And I say, 'Yes, it is.' "

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Do you and your elementary school students walk to school? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments section below.

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