By jeanne starmack
Inside the Roosevelt gymnasium on School Street on Friday morning, a group of middle-school and high-school students were getting some last-minute instructions.
At precisely 7 a.m., they would be setting out for the Hubbard schools campus nearly a mile away. Another group, this one of elementary students, would follow at 7:40 a.m.
But no buses were coming for them. Instead, these students were setting out to prove that they didn’t need a ride.
In the pre-dawn, rainy morning, they were going to walk to school.
“You have to stick together,” said Karen Studer, a volunteer with Action for Healthy Kids who organized the walk.
“Make sure we are visible,” she continued. “Everybody needs a partner to walk with them.”
“My goal is to do something like this on a regular basis,” she told the kids and some parents who were sitting on the bleachers around the gym.
“We have to make our voices heard about safe walking and biking to school.”
As the kids filed out into the gymnasium foyer to collect reflective safety vests Studer was handing out, parent Rod White said he would support walking to school on a regular basis.
Studer would like to start a walking club that would use shoe power to get to school once a week.
White’s daughter, Abby, volunteered to join in Friday’s walk, he said.
“I just wanted to walk to school,” Abby said. “It’s something different.”
As the group of about 25 people set out down the gymnasium steps toward School Street, the high-schoolers watched out for the younger students. They were volunteers from the student council and National Honor Society.
Leah McConnell, a senior, said she believes the exercise is important.
Physical activity is one benefit of walking to school. Others are teaching safe pedestrian and bicycling skills to children; promoting improvements for a walkable and bikeable community; concern for the environment; and reducing traffic congestion, according to the National Center for Safe Routes to School. The center coordinated the national Walk-to-School Day on Oct. 9.
Studer coordinated Hubbard’s walk in observation of Walk-to-School Month, which was October. The walk had been set for Oct. 25, but a water-line break in the city closed the schools that day.
The 15-minute walk to school took the students down School Street, through the stadium, up to and across Liberty Street, up Grandview and to the campus.
They walked briskly, chatting as they went. The time passed quickly.
Seventh-grader Sam Phibbs walked with her sister, sixth-grader Ally, and their friend, MacKenzie Dubyk, also a sixth-grader.
The walk, said Ally, was much more pleasant than the usual bus ride.
“I just don’t like to ride the bus,” she said. “The bus driver is always yelling.”