Glendale disabled students walk thousands of miles

About 80 students at College View School on Friday walked the last of a collective 8,721 miles on campus — equal to a jaunt to the East coast of the United States and back.

Their walk began months ago at the start of the school year when College View's physical education specialist, David Beard, suggested the students collectively walk enough miles on campus to equate to a walk to San Francisco.

PHOTOS: College View School students complete over 8,700 miles walked 

At College View, the students are cognitively or intellectually disabled. Some are in need of breathing or feeding tubes. Many are autistic and some have Down syndrome. Others are in wheelchairs. And more than 95% of them cannot talk.

"There are so many things our kids can't do," said Principal Jay Schwartz. "Anybody can walk."

Beard mapped out four areas on campus where students could walk to and from to complete a mile. Some staff took to arriving at work early to jog the parking lot.

In two weeks, the school covered the distance from Glendale to San Francisco, stopping first at Yosemite 307 miles away on their self-styled distance map. They "continued on" to Portland, then to Seattle and later to Yellowstone by way of Missoula. From Chicago, they walked east to the nation's capital and New York City before turning back to Glendale.

The miles counted for the students who rolled in wheelchairs, along with the person who pushed them.

One wheelchair-bound student became known for wheeling herself. Another clocked miles with his walker when his physical therapist had doubted he could do so, Beard said.

Corky O'Rourke, a teacher on special assignment, observed how the preschoolers were able to walk from one side of the building to another independently.

"You could trust them to go and come back, which is huge, because that's one of the skills they have to have to go to a [general] education campus," she said, adding that the students weren't the only ones to benefit. "It's not just the kids. We have adults who've lost weight."

After 39 weeks of walking, Beard estimated the school collectively averaged 223 miles per week.

"Setting a high standard for yourself and the students — I think it's really important," Beard said. "You'll be surprised at what you get."

When the students and staff had walked the last mile on Friday, they received gold medals and cookies shaped like shoes.

They also decided on next year's goal.

"Next year, we're going international," Schwartz said.


Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.


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