Students at Montclaire Elementary School in Los Altos first participated in the annual International Walk to School Day in 1998; more than two decades later, the tradition continues.
Six groups of Montclaire students walked to school Oct. 6, with one group – the largest – escorted by Los Altos police officers, Los Altos Mayor Neysa Fligor and Principal Katie Kinnaman.
In the school’s largest turnout yet, the walkers waved balloons and flags and wore spirit gear as they trekked to school, and upon arriving received stickers to show their participation.
Emma Pannell, director of marketing and communications for the Montclaire Parent-Teacher Organization (MPTO), said via email that the school’s participation in International Walk to School Day encouraged it to join Safe Routes to School, an initiative that advocates for walking and cycling to school.
MPTO co-president Donna Howe-Clements said local school districts and Santa Clara County promote Safe Routes to School.
“Los Altos has recently gone through a program of looking at all the roads, and then identifying those that need some attention in terms of safety and additional crossings or maybe stop signs,” Howe-Clements said. “For Montclaire, there’s a whole reservicing plan going ahead.”
Walk and Bike to School Days demonstrate outcomes that can have an impact beyond just one day, Pannell said:
• Reducing traffic congestion and vehicle speed near schools.
• Reducing air pollution – and associated child respiratory effects.
• Improving academic performance, behavior and social connection among students, and among adults and students.
• Teaching students safe walking and bicycling behavior.
• Enabling students to experience independence and build self-confidence.
• Reclaiming community streets so that they are safer for walking and bicycling.
According to Pannell, the inaugural Walk to School Week took place in 1994, starting out with just a few schools in Great Britain. The U.S. joined three years later, launching the first American Walk to School events in 1997 in Chicago and Los Angeles. Nearly 4 million people from all 50 states and 42 countries worldwide participated in this year’s event, with more than 23,000 students in Santa Clara County joining schools across the globe in a weeklong celebration of events and activities.