Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Every Day Should Be Walk To School Day

Today was "International Walk to School Day" and this month is "Walk to School Month" and finally both of my little Sweepers can walk to school together. Out the door and into school in ten minutes, fifteen tops. This reminds me of the days of my youth.

I grew up in a different day and time. I started school back when you were expected to walk to school. All of my classmates were doing it so it was not a big thing. I walked across the park and either skirted the ballfield or traipsed right through it, although that was hard to do when the high school band was practicing on those crisp fall mornings. Walking across with a sister who was two years older and later with one two years younger, we were joined by other families of kids on the block. Passing by the old auditorium and crossing the Kentucky/High/Maxwell intersection, then down by the firehouse and the crossing guard. A piece of cake for any elementary school child of the mid 20th century. And I even went home for lunch...alone.

Middle school was a 1 mile bike ride away through Chevy Chase and high school was a five minute walk, cross Main St and enter the front door. At that point I lived closer that those who drove to school could park. To me, every day for 13 years of public education was walk to school day and for the time that I attended the University, I walked there also.

These days some districts have discouraged walking and biking to school and some have outright banned it. The placement of some of our more recent schools have also made it harder for those who live nearby since they are built near intersections of major, multi-laned highways and not centrally located to the residential areas. Only one of Lexington's five high schools is directly on a major road, though the private one are mostly on highly traveled roadways.

Any parent who these days wishes to allow their child to walk to school, or even several blocks to a bus stop may be considered to be a negligent parent by some and a candidate for "child abuser" by others. Is it any wonder that our children don't have any clue as to where they are or how they got there when we shuttle them around everywhere they go. My oldest son was nearly 16 before he would venture more than six blocks on a bike by himself and would ask me "Where should I go?". There is no way that I could trust him out there with a car like that. That is the real child abuse.

The EPA has begun to monitor the air quality around selected schools nationwide and primarily in depressed areas yet all schools should probably be monitored, especially during the morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up periods. The suspected pollutants should be auto exhaust rather than the industrial type. There has already been evidence of harmful effects on pregnant women living near generators of auto exhaust, so how much more harm are we doing to our children?

On a side note, I saw a Twitter entry for the Mayor's Chief of Staff the other day in which she urged everyone to participate in the Second Sunday "event" this weekend and directed those interested to the Government's web site for parking locations. I would have hoped for more of an appeal to use public transportation than to use the private vehicle. Why was Lextran not included in the planning of this "event"?

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