About 75 students from deliberately missed the school bus on Wednesday. They walked to school instead.
The kids, escorted by parents and other adult volunteers, were participating in the statewide Georgia Walk to School Day – held by the Safe Routes to School program, an initiative that encourages children to lead healthier lifestyles by walking or biking to school. It was the third year the event was held across the state.
Gwinnett Board of Education Chairwoman Louise Radloff arrived early and walked with students.
“It is a great day, and I am so proud of you for walking to school. Because you walked, your heart is pumping and racing. And you’re saving fuel,” Radloff told students later at a school assembly.
From apartment complexes and subdivisions on Beaver Ruin Road, about 40 students gathered and walked nearly a mile together as cars and buses whizzed by. Norcross Police were also stationed along the route.
Summer Cunningham, an eighth grader, said she got to school earlier by walking than taking the bus.
“Buses are the reason we have so many overweight kids,” Cunningham said. “They need to start walking.”
Following the walk at the assembly, representatives from the school, state, PTA and Norcross Police Department praised the students for taking steps toward a healthy lifestyle.
The Safe Routes to School task force also presented a plan for improving routes within 2 miles of the school, so that kids can more easily walk to school. In order to create the plan, members of the task force walked the areas around the school to identify problems, said SRTS Co-Chair Arlene Beckles. For example, they found places where sidewalks end. They recommended painting crosswalk lines where none exist. Or repairing a broken sidewalk.
Copies of the plan were given to representatives of the school, school board, city of Norcross and Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District – some of the entities involved in the program. The task force will now work with local and state government to start making the recommended improvements around the middle school.
Summerour is one of several Gwinnett schools participating in the Safe Routes to School program. This is the school’s third walking event since the task force formed a year ago, said Co-Chair Connie Weathers.
Teresa Dom, whose daughter attends the middle school, accompanied kids on the walk Wednesday morning. Speaking through a school employee who interpreted her Spanish, she said it’s important because it’s good for the children’s health. “And to help the environment – by saving gas,” she added.