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."