Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Healthy kids = walking kids

Good job by the Mecklenburg County Health Department. It created a job for a "safe routes to schools coordinator" and hired Dick Winters five months ago. The idea is that helping and encouraging more kids to walk to school can fight the growing problem of childhood obesity.

Winters is working with Cotswold, Highland Creek and Beverly Woods elementary schools -- and getting advice from Davidson, where a huge effort to get kids walking to school is having growing success -- to help them find parent volunteers and organize periodic "Walk To School Day" events. International Walk to School day was Oct. 8. Obviously, he hopes to expand to other schools.

He's learning, of course, that efforts at individual schools have to be paired with efforts to change some of the bureaucratic policies and procedures that can make it daunting for anyone, not just a student, to walk even a few blocks to a school. Some schools are situated where walking is difficult or unsafe, due to traffic or crime. At some schools, principals discourage students' walking or bicycling. I wrote a few years back about the city having taken away the crosswalk and light on Tyvola Road that let students and a neighborhood volunteer walk to CMS's Smith Language Academy.

Other schools have had more success. Winters said Highland Creek Elementary recently had to get more bike racks, and that one day someone counted 50 bicycles there. As Winters said, "We need a groundswell from parents to get policies changed."


Anonymous said...

Hmm. How do you reconcile CMS' apparent desire to bus students all over the county with the idea of getting them to walk to school?

Oh, I know. We'll still bus them all over the county, but we'll put the bus stops 2 miles away from where they live. That way they can walk and get bussed all over the place.

The smarter thing to do, and which would save us money, is to allow students to attend the nearest school to where they live. That would encourage more walking and it would lessen the need to burn gas driving everyone to school.

Anonymous said...

Many of our schools are not built for easy walking accessibility precisely because for so long children were not assigned to schools close to their homes. In fact I think many in this city forgot what it was like to have kids walk to school. As assignment policy changed there was indeed a groundswell of parents asking for nearby, walkable schools. As I recall the Observer's editorial board considered these parents selfish and even racist. (Don't I remember one editor posting a comment that suburban parents were "afraid of diversity"). It's good to see that common sense has won out.

Anonymous said...

It hasn't won out yet. The CMS doublethink is probably trying to figure out a way to make kids walk while still allowing the system to bus kids around to create "equality" between the schools.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:42 ---

"The smarter thing to do, and which would save us money, is to allow students to attend the nearest school to where they live."

Do you even know what the hell you're talking about? Your ignorance is showing just as loudly as your smart-aleckness. Even if you don't actually have children, there's no excuse to not realize that CMS does not have "forced busing" any longer; every student is guaranteed an assignment in their local neighborhood school (that fact SHOULD be common sense); but if they and/or their parents desire they may apply for the chance to attend a "magnet" school which may be some distance away, & to which they may or may not also be eligible for a bus ride, depending on what transportation zone they live in. I don't work for CMS, but as a parent who's very pleased with my children's education in it (a magnet school to which we have to carpool them to), I'm really weary of armchair critics like you for whom the many dedicated & talented employees of CMS can do nothing right, in your opinion.

BTW, when's the last time you volunteered in your local school to help make it a better place, in some small way? If you think a half-hour just having lunch with a kid couldn't matter, you might want to remember the story about the little boy tossing the beached starfish back into the sea, because while you can't save all of them, "I can save THAT one."

Anonymous said...

Why was it necessary to create a job in the health dept. to encourage kids to walk to schools? Isn't that something a principal/teachers/student nurse could communicate to the parents?

I think kids walking to their schools is a great thing. More recess activities before and after lunch would help too.

This must be an idea cooked up by the same group that think reducing the credit hours for seniors is a good thing. In the mess that CMS finds itself, the last thing they need to do is lower requirements. If anything they need to make it harder and raise standards. Those students who achieve now will achieve anyway...and it will give more stature to a CMS graduate.

Enough fluff about flexibility.