Rashkis Elementary Pulls Out All the Stops for Walk to School Day
In many Chapel Hill and Carrboro neighborhoods, it might take an inside tip to recognize National Walk to School Day. But for the past four years in Meadowmont, the students, staff and parents of Rashkis Elementary School (RES) make sure everyone in view knows it’s the day to celebrate walking to school. Nearly 95% of students walk together down Meadowmont Lane to stream through the school’s doors by the time the first bell rings.
Physical education teacher, Michelle Wood, has led the campaign at RES to make sure everyone is pumped up and ready to walk safely and briskly to their classrooms each year. “Our Walk to School Day is a way to promote being healthy and active, while giving us a time to grow as a community,” Wood said. “We have officers from the police and fire departments who block traffic for us but also walk and talk with the kids. A group of fifth graders lead us with drums as we walk down Meadowmont Lane, and everyone has 20 minutes to walk and talk and get to know other members of our school.”
The layout of the neighborhood allows for everyone to meet near the parking lot for Harris Teeter, where the buses drop off students so that every child has the chance to participate. Some students ride their bikes, a few others ride scooters, and parents often walk with younger siblings. One of the major draws is the presence of the police and fire officers from the community, and the procession gets underway with a Carolina blue fire engine out front.
Wood organizes the logistics each year, and RES receptionist, Mary Battista, makes all the calls to organize the fire and police attendance and to get permission from the Wellness Center to allow everyone to gather on their lawn until the walk begins.
“Our family has participated in Walk to School Day for the last four years at Rashkis,” said Kate Upton, PTA President for RES. “When my son first went to kindergarten, his little sister loved being pushed in the stroller next to his kindergarten class; the next year she was able to walk with him holding hands, and finally last year she was able to walk as a kindergartner herself. It’s a tradition that brings families closer together and our community as a whole together. Miss Noelle, our music teacher, has students provide percussion. The students love greeting the Chapel Hill police and firefighters who have come to close down the road for the Walk. It is a wonderful if chaotic start to the day.”
Walk to School Day began in 1997, and now thousands of schools participate across the country each year. The non-profit walkbiketoschool.org shares messages about the four major benefits of Walk to School Day: creating healthier habits, promoting a cleaner environment, teaching pedestrian and bicycling safety and creating stronger communities.