Join the crowd for Walk to School Wednesday this week!
Wednesday, October 5 will be the 20th anniversary of “Walk to School Day” across Michigan and Manchester Community Schools is ramping up its efforts to get more kids walking to school as a way to celebrate this milestone.
Groups are meeting at four locations this fall to get motivated for the ongoing ‘Walk to School Wednesday’ project, coordinated by Klager Elementary teacher, Kathy O’Mara. O’Mara has been involved in the walking program for three years now, the past two as its coordinator.
“My goal this year is to offer more sites for kids to meet, have kids get off the bus every Wednesday, and encourage more parents to have their child walk to school every day,” O’Mara said.
The sites where students and adults meet to walk to school each week include Wurster Park and Central Office (at the Ackerson building) at 7:30 am, and both groups proceed to Chi-Bro Park to meet another group at 7:45 am. At this point, some walkers branch off down the shared-use trail to the middle school, and the remainder of the group heads on to Klager Elementary School. In addition, another group of Klager kids ride the buses as far as the high school, where they are let off to walk with O’Mara and other volunteers over to Klager.
“I am always looking for volunteers who might want to join in on the walk,” O’Mara added. “I have many staff members, community members, and parents who walk regularly. It is a great way to start the day. We have anywhere from 10-15 adult volunteers and staff members participating each week as well.
“I just love to see the kids walking,” she said. “I know I walked to school when I went to school so I guess that is where my passion comes from.”
Each student who walks to school gets a small foot token as a reminder of how many times they have been part of the “walking school bus.” Last week, a total of 68 kids walked to school from the various sites, and O’Mara hopes that more than 100 will participate this Wednesday. Everyone–from infants to senior citizens–is invited and encouraged to participate each week, but this Wednesday will be very special and extra incentives will be offered to students and adults alike!
As winter approaches, the program will continue, but O’Mara said she will probably just do the Wurster and Chi-Bro sites and start up the Ackerson and high school sites again in spring.
Part of the Walk to School Wednesday program in Manchester is involved in promoting safe routes to our schools. In addition to the funding the Manchester Safe Routes to School program receives from 5 Healthy Towns through the Manchester Wellness Coalition, Village Manager Jeff Wallace has been working on a grant for a statewide ‘Safe Routes to School’ program for the past couple of years, working to fund additional sidewalks along school routes, and was successful in getting a grant award last winter. Manchester’s grant project is in its final stages of review by the MDOT before going out to bid this winter for work completed next spring and summer.
“We spent several months trying to qualify for a Rapid Flashing Beacon on M-52,” Wallace explained, “but after a warrant report study was completed by MDOT, it was determined that one was not justified. The good thing is that we will be adding sidewalks to the areas around Klager and the Middle School that will help promote a safer walk to school.”
Residents may also have noticed the flashing speed limit signs, reminding drivers of their speed in school zones, which were also provided by the Safe Routes to Schools Program.