Bartlesville students join in on International Walk to School Day

The sidewalks and crosswalks around Bartlesville saw much traffic as the city's eight elementary and middle schools participated in the annual International Walk to School Day Wednesday morning.

Participation this day, a worldwide celebration designed to promote a healthy and active lifestyle, was high Wednesday morning at Woodrow Wilson Elementary according to event officials.

"We've had great participation. It's steady," Jan Boomer told 2NEWS. She was seated at table where she, a police officer and school volunteers rewarded the students with bottled water, stickers and police cards.

The chairman of the Preventative Health Partnership Committee, which together with the city promoted and coordinated day, Boomer said every year the program has seen increased participation.

"We've got skateboarders, bikes, scooters — They are all coming in different ways."

According to the school's event coordinator, Karen Sagle, this is the first year where all the district's elementary and middle schools joined in the walk.

She told 2NEWS Wilson has a unique situation in that due to its location in a neighborhood in northeast Bartlesville, nearly 70 percent of the student population can walk to school — something school officials really want.

"In order to cut down on the traffic problem, we've been really encouraging walking to school," she explained, saying that the school has seen a population increase due to the closing of Oak Park Elementary a year-and-a-half-ago. Wilson now draws traffic from the other side of town as parents drop off their kids. Additionally the school receives students from five buses instead of two as before the closing.

Elvira Martinez who lives three blocks away from the school walked her 5-year-old to the school.

"We love it," she said, saying it also gives her an opportunity to walk the dog or use the stroller for younger child.

She told 2NEWS the walk would have been easier had a segment of her walk — nearly a half-block long — had sidewalk.

Increasing the amount of sidewalk has been a goal for the city since it began participation in Walk to School Day three years ago. That year the city applied for and received a Safe Routes to School Grant from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

Thanks to the grant, the city of Bartlesville has added nearly 5,000 feet of new sidewalk near the schools.

According to Salge, since the school began participation in the program in 2006, Wilson has seen a 10 to 15 percent increase in foot-traffic, making the effort a great success.

Now the school needs more crossing guards and sidewalk ramps, she said.

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