BARTLESVILLE, Okla. - Often seen around towns are signs prohibiting skateboarding. But in Bartlesville, city officials are encouraging the city's youngsters to skateboard, to bike, to walk or to use any means of self-propelled transportation to get to school on Wednesday.
Why? Because Wednesday, Oct. 3, is International Walk to School Day — a day celebrated by students around the world to promote walking and biking to school, generally to encourage a healthy, active lifestyle.
City of Bartlesville Mayor Tom Gorman who is expected to proclaim the day as Walk to School Day in Bartlesville during Monday's city council meeting said the city has been committed to Walk to School Day since 2009. That year the city applied for and received a Safe Routes to School Grant from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
"The grant has given Bartlesville nearly 5,000 feet of new sidewalk near the schools," he said.
Participation in Walk to School Day grows every year, according to City of Bartlesville Grants Administrator Nancy Wade who explained that in 2009, only four schools participated. This year all eight elementary and middle schools will join in on the event.
For every student to walk or bike to school is exactly what Jan Boomer, Chairman of the Preventative Health Partnership Committee, wants. The committee together with the city helps to promote and coordinate day.
“As a subcommittee of the Washington County Wellness Initiative, we have a particular concern with the health and well-being of children in Washington County,” she said, saying Oklahoma has one of the lowest health rankings in the nation. “We know we can do better. We just have to change some thinking and change some habits.”
Volunteers and city officials will greet students as they arrive to their schools on Wednesday.
Parents who typically get behind the wheel to drive their children to school are encouraged to instead let their children to take their own wheels or to walk to school, perhaps even in groups and with them. Parents may even drive their children and park some distance from the school, and walk them from there.
“Parents and neighbors can organize a walking school bus and walk together,” said Wade.
While Walk to School Day is geared toward improving the health of students, it also eases traffic congestion around the schools, which in turn makes walking safer and improves surrounding air quality.
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Bartlesville Regional United Way recently announced the results of United Way’s annual report for 2011.