This week in Washington, DC, as in many areas around the country, students are heading back to their classrooms.
Today, Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez promoted safe healthy lifestyles for kids by accompanying a group of DC students and their parents in a "Walking School Bus" to Maury Elementary School. They were joined by US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, and DC School Chancellor Michelle Rhee.
Walking school buses are groups of neighborhood kids and parents who get together to walk to and from school. It's a way of keeping kids safe by keeping them together and making them more visible to drivers. It also helps busy parents share the responsibility of looking after their kids on the way to and from school.
A walking school bus is just one of the ideas from FHWA's Safe Routes to School program, which encourages more kids to walk or bike to school by making it easier and safer. As Administrator Mendez said this morning:
"We believe children should have choices in how they get to school every day. And our Safe Routes to School program combines the goal of providing transportation choices with our top priority, which is safety."
I've blogged before about how terrific this program is--it takes cars off our roads, gets kids outside, and helps them get valuable exercise--but it's worth reiterating.
Thanks in part to Safe Routes to School, we have stabilized the steady 40-year decline in kids walking or biking to school. This means better health for our kids, and that's consistent with First Lady Michelle Obama's nationwide Let's Move challenge to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity in America.
“It may be a little bit old school," said Secretary Duncan, "but I think it’s absolutely what our children need.”
More than 6,000 schools across the country are taking part in Safe Routes to School, but Administrator Mendez reports that none could be as enthusiastic as Maury Elementary. The Maury community made quite an impression.
I'm glad to hear that news because the Safe Routes to School program has worked hard to improve sidewalks, crosswalks and other tools that enhance safety for children. The program also has done a great job educating kids about the value of walking or biking to school and about how to do so safely.
Congratulations to Maury Elementary for such an enthusiastic turn-out on DC's sidewalks this morning. And please, everyone--whether your area has already started its school year or is about to start--be mindful of kids on their way to and from school as you drive. Let's make this school year the safest one ever!