Walking in the rain

GLENDALE— Steve Miskjian and his four-year-old daughter Tiffany walked more than a mile to Wite Elementary School on Wednesday, part of a 60-person walking school bus.

The rain didn't stop them. Traffic didn't slow them down. Construction crews along their route were no problem.

"We don't walk every day, but we did today," Steve Miskjian said.

They were among the roughly 800 people walking to school on International Walk to School Day, an event designed to reduce congestion around schools.

But organizers note walking to school is also advantageous tp child behavior. In Sally Browder's experience, walking her second-grade daughter to White each morning has brought them closer.

"It's harder to focus on conversation when you're not face-to-face," she said. "When we're walking, she talks a lot more and decompresses in a way she didn't when we'd drive."

More than four million people were expected to walk to school nationwide, and more than two dozen Glendale residents packed a City Council meeting Tuesday when officials proclaimed October walk to school month, organizers said.

Students were given goodie bags containing some first aid material and safety tips, such as a reflective light wrist band. They entered White through a red carpet, signed their name to a star and created a walk of fame.

White deserves it, organizers said. Last year, walk to school day was a blip, but this year Glendale Unified was on pace to lead Los Angeles County among participating schools, organizers said.

"R.D. White has an amazing parent community, that's what this is," Principal Suzanne Risse said. "It's not one person, it's a village, and that's what this shows."

Glendale drivers rank among the nation's poorest, according to some indicators. In October 2008, a Toll Middle School student was killed by a driver along Glenwood Road, home to three Glendale Unified campuses in a two-block stretch.

In East Glendale, a Wilson Middle School student was taken to the hospital after she was hit by a car in January 2009.

Glendale police officers were present at many campuses Wednesday and there were no accidents, officials said.

As walking to school grows more popular, Browder said she'd expect fewer incidents.

"If more people walk, it makes it easier and safe," she said. "The more who walk, the better."

Students looked both ways as they crossed the street. Crossing guards led the way in many cases, as did parent volunteers. Many students wore rain coats and clutched child-sized umbrellas.

Tiffany wore sandals, having misplaced her sneakers, she said.

Walking to school was fun, she said, but she wasn't sure if she'd repeat the hike.

"I can't walk to school," she said. "I have no shoes."

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