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Creating a Culture of Safety and Wellness: Walk and Roll to School
Last Wednesday morning, if you were driving or jogging around town as the sun rose, you might have been surprised to see sidewalks filled with families on foot, bicycles, scooters and strollers. It was a great fall morning for International Walk and Roll to School Day, and the widespread participation across the District reflected families’ commitment to Creating a Culture of Safety and Wellness!
As one example, Ephesus Elementary School (EES) celebrated its 19th Walk and Roll event with a family parade that claimed the neighborhood side streets, with Principal Stacie Boyer, Roady the Roadrunner and Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger leading the way. Their parade began at the Ridgewood Club and picked up families as they walked. Boyer pulled a huge rolling speaker which blasted tunes like “Macarena” and “All About That Bass,” and the children who could dance and walk at the same time did just that. Wake up, Colony Woods! Once they arrived at EES, the administration and staff hosted a dance party on the K-2 playground, where Mayor Hemminger spoke a few words, students created a spontaneous conga line, and parents and staff joined together for a round of Electric Slide in fine form!
Boyer said of the annual event, “Each time, it is a blast and I think it speaks to how we bring families together with something as simple as dancing on the blacktop, enjoying one another in community. Movement is critical for anyone, but especially for elementary aged students, and giving them an opportunity to walk/roll to school to show the benefits of health/wellness but encourage movement through dancing together, is also a priority. It was a great way to spark joy and start the day!”
“I like that the (dance party) is inclusive of any student who wants to participate, regardless of how they arrived at school that day, and that students, families and staff who participated in the parade to school and/or dance party get to start off the day with physical activity and fun,” said EES School Social Worker, Marne Meredith.
Leigh Herrington is an EES PTA member with long standing planning support of the event. “Ephesus staff, families and extended community help provide a positive experience for all of our students to participate in healthy choices, including biking, walking, dancing and movement,” she said. “We do this through celebrating Walk to School Day, distributing donated bikes and helmets to Ephesus families and establishing strong relationships with our community partners. It's the enthusiastic support of our principal, Stacie Boyer, the staff and family volunteers that allows us to provide opportunities that promote events like Walk to School Day. I also can't thank the Town participants enough for their dedication and involvement."
Crossing guards are an essential component of safety in school communities, especially those who help K-5 students cross busy streets. It’s only fitting to lift up those essential workers during Walk & Roll Day! At EES, parents did just that with a gift to crossing guard, Larry Chadbourne, (aka Mr. Larry), who seemed as excited by the special day as any of the students or parents. He sported a metallic silver tie in honor of the occasion, and he delivered a few high fives to the children who called out his name, even as his eyes never left the road and sidewalks.
But Ephesus was hardly the only game in town when it came to walking, rolling and the culture of safety and wellness. At Carrboro Elementary School, Carrboro Mayor Damon Seils and Mayor Pro Tem, Susan Romaine, walked with a group from Wilson Park, while Council member Sammy Slade led a group of bicyclists. Parent Lauren Sacks said, “Everyone was so excited, and it was a really fun morning.”
Rashkis Elementary School physical education teacher, Michelle Wood, has spearheaded Walk and Roll to School for many years at the school in Meadowmont. During previous years, student participation has exceeded 90%. "We borrowed shopping carts from Harris Teeter and had a fun parade of Raptors,” Wood said. “The Fire Department and Police Department came. The East Chapel Hill High School band and athletes came and walked with the students. The 5th graders got to march with the drummers and beat their own drums. The kids loved it and enjoyed it!"
Estes Hills Elementary School parent, Liz Kalies said, "We had a great turnout with the Estes Hills Eagle Mascot greeting walkers coming into school. Thank you to the Chapel Hill Police Department for helping our bus riders make the final walk to school this year."
Phillips Middle School teacher, Stefanie Hanne said, "Because of the construction, we decided we would walk at school on the track, during advisory period … the students and staff enjoyed it so much that we're thinking about doing it again in the future."
Walk and Roll to School Day provides an opportunity to spotlight pedestrian and bicycle safety, promote a cleaner environment, build community– and perhaps most importantly, support and celebrate the health and wellness benefits of walking and bicycling– on safe streets!
Thank you to the amazing public servants from the Chapel Hill and Carrboro Fire and Police Departments, and the leaders from both towns who came out bright and early to model a culture of safety and wellness!
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