Armed with umbrellas and slickers, thousands of children, parents and officials crowded the streets of Glendale Wednesday morning for International Walk to School Day, designed to promote healthy lifestyles and pedestrian safety.
It was the third consecutive year that local schools have taken part in the national event. Participation numbers were projected to hit 20,000, the highest of any district in California.
“We got all 29 Glendale Unified schools participating this year, as well as three private schools that signed up,” said Kara Sergile, a parent at R.D. White Elementary School and a pedestrian safety advocate who spearheaded the effort.
The annual International Walk to School Day is one facet of a burgeoning walk-to-school movement that has taken hold in Glendale Unified in recent years. The pace is largely being set by Sergile and other R.D. White parent volunteers, motivated by a fatal pedestrian accident at Toll Middle School in October 2008.
The health benefits and the reduction in the number of cars around the school make the effort worth it, said R.D. White Principal Suzanne Risse.
“It does add another layer to your work, but it is probably the most important work that we do because safety for our students is essential,” Risse said.
Other schools have followed R.D. White’s lead, organizing monthly walk-to-school events in which students and parents congregate at predetermined intersections and parks and then proceed to school as one large group.
A steady rain Wednesday did little to deter walkers. Administrators sent out messages notifying families that the event would take place rain or shine, and participants seemed happy to take on the elements.
At R.D. White Elementary School, participants were escorted by a foursome of Power Rangers.
“I think walking is good, and healthy for the earth,” said fifth-grade R. D. White student Zoe Huerta, 10.
Throughout the district, Glendale police officers ensured a safe passage.
Organizers said they hope to expand the event next year.
“I am so pleased with the turnout,” Sergile said. “R.D. White has really shown a commitment to this event and our parent community has been so supportive all three years.”