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GUSD community trades wheels for feet on Walk-to-School Day

Hundreds of parents and students ditched their cars for one morning to take part in International Walk-to-School Day, sponsored locally by the city of Glendale and Glendale Unified School District on Wednesday.

All 24 district elementary and middle schools, along with the private Chamlian Armenian School, encouraged their students to stroll to their respective campuses in an attempt to promote health and well-being, along with a sense of camaraderie.

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Kristine Tonoli, principal of Mark Keppel Visual and Performing Arts Magnet Elementary, and Kelly Worley, the school’s assistant principal, led a procession of about 100 people from the corner of Olmstead Drive and Virginia Avenue toward their school.

“I love this sense of community,” Tonoli said.

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“It’s great to see the students before school with smiles on their faces. They’re happy, they’re fresh and they’re enjoying the walk to school, and something a little bit outside of school is a nice change,” she added.

Along the way, Glendale police officers took part in the walk to the delight of many students, while members of the Glendale Fire Department, dressed in T-shirts and turnout gear, gave high-fives to youngsters running to class.

“It’s fun to be able to interact with the parents and kids, even if we all are half asleep,” Police Chief Carl Povilaitis said jokingly. “The police department enjoys a very good relationship with the Glendale Unified School District. It’s a good morning to demonstrate that, while encouraging walking to school.”

Povilaitis said all motor officers assigned to the various schools were on those campuses Wednesday morning and patrol officers also took part in the event.

Keppel parent Hrach Ibranosian said he appreciates those efforts.

“It’s definitely fun,” said Ibranosian, who was walking his 6-year-old daughter, Nairia, to Keppel. “She likes it, and it’s great, you know, that the police force and fire support this, and it’s great they are around here because I live around here.”

Glendale Mayor Zareh Sinanyan also participated in the Keppel march.

“This is my sixth year doing this,” Sinanyan said. “I do this with my children and not only is it a lot of fun, but it promotes a healthy lifestyle.”

Sinanyan escorted his three sons — Mher, Aram and Areg — to Mark Keppel, while he and his daughter, Anahit, walked an extra 100 feet to Toll Middle School.

“I do wonder why we do this only once a year?” Sinanyan asked. “It’s all good, nothing negative, but it’s only once a year. I’d love to do it more frequently.”

Mary Mason, the district’s executive director of elementary education, said the district has been taking part in walk-to-school days for over a decade, and she has watched participation swell.

“This is an international day to promote walking to school and, at first, it was just a few schools,” Mason said. “It’s grown since then, and we’re always happy, as a district, to see our numbers continue to grow.”

Mason also encouraged those who travel from outside walking distance to school and even inter-district-permit students, those who reside outside the district, to get involved.

“For our commuters, we asked them to park a ways away and walk,” she said. “Health and fitness is for everyone.”

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