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12:41 AM Mon, Nov. 19th

‘Walk to School Days’ offers local children a chance to get exercise while learning road safety

Students from Prescott’s Lincoln School walk down Goodwin Street as part of Walk to School week Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

Students from Prescott’s Lincoln School walk down Goodwin Street as part of Walk to School week Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

The Safe Route to Schools national Walk to School Days will continue with other area schools in the coming days. The schedule is as follows: Mountain Oak on Thursday, Abia Judd on Friday, Skyview next Thursday and Taylor Hicks next Friday. For exact times and start locations, contact the school offices.

Fourth-grader Charly Dunn was one of the first Lincoln Elementary “Lions” to arrive on the south side of the Prescott courthouse plaza Wednesday morning for “Walk to School Day.”

With a wool bunny rabbit hat to keep her head warm and sneakers on her feet, Charly was all about getting some early morning exercise. She also liked getting a goodie bag that included a yellow T-shirt with a logo that reads, “IRide, IWalk, IPedal.”

Charly’s grandmother, Kathy August, was delighted she was able to tag along.

“It’s wonderful,” August said of the annual event that offers children the opportunity to learn safety information and discover the benefits of taking a stroll outdoors with their schoolmates and parents.

For many of the 75 youngsters and parents who attended the national Safe Route to Schools event, this was the first time they walked to school. Many of them either live too far away, or the morning routine is not conducive to a parent-child walk. Most parents said they would not be comfortable letting their young children walk alone to school with sidewalks a hit-or-miss proposition.

Almost all of the parents and grandparents who accompanied these children, though, appreciated the chance to experience a brisk walk to the rear of their beloved neighborhood school. And they applauded the chance for their young loved ones to learn key safety tips that will serve them even if they are simply walking or biking in their neighborhood.

A one-time Prescott student who loved walking her neighborhood streets, mother Shelby Nadeau welcomed the chance to accompany her three children - third-grader Gauge, second-grader Blake and kindergartner Zoey – on this walk to school. She said she really liked that the children were introduced to some basic rules of the road as it is knowledge they can use to get safely to where they need to be.

“This is fun,” said mother Kay Dannen as she accompanied her second-grader Sophia. “It was exciting to get up, smell the fresh air and walk to school.”

Local Safe Route to Schools coordinator Josette Kubin explained to all that this is a once-a-year chance to promotes safe walking and pedaling. Walkers are taught if they are required to walk on the street edge to do so facing traffic. Bicyclists are expected to travel with traffic.

One of the most important tips Kubin offered children and parents has to do with a 21st century phenomenon. She was clear that they need to avoid becoming a distracted pedestrian, and look out for distracted drivers.

In other words, put away the cellphones and headphones. Pay attention to where you walk. Look left, right and left again, Kubin advised.

Even when entering a crosswalk with an illuminated pedestrian traffic signal, Kubin advised all to pause long enough to look both ways before proceeding on one’s way. Distracted drivers don’t always stop.

One father, Dion Henderson, holding hands with son, Kian, a kindergartner, was dressed perfectly for the occasion. His Nike logo shirt read, “Just Do It.”

Parent Krista Smyly hailed Lincoln’s administration for being part of such an event because it is so important to teach children how to be healthy and safe. Indeed, she said she selected Lincoln Elementary for her two children, first-grader Skylar and preschooler, Benjamin, because the school is so connected with the community.

“We love Lincoln,” Smyly said.

Principal Karen Hughes was one of the walkers Wednesday morning. Students took turns holding her hand as they walked the couple blocks from the courthouse to the rear entrance of the school.

“This has become a tradition for us,” Hughes said just before she whistled to grab the children’s attention prior to the kick-off of the police escorted walk.

Part of the allure of this event is that it gets families to be active together, Hughes said.

“We just don’t walk anywhere anymore,” Hughes said. “Let’s get out. Kids need to burn off energy. Let’s put down the electronics and come together as a community … We love this location to start our walk to the best school in town.”