By LESLIE COLLINS
May 1, 2013
Approximately 200 James Elementary students participated in Walk to School Day, and school officials are hoping for a similar turnout for the May 8 National Bike to School Day.
Eric Bunch of BikeWalkKC approached James Elementary with the concept and James Elementary Principal Dr. Jo Nemeth agreed it was a worthy event.
“The walking and biking really helps children be more fit,” Nemeth said.
It also complements the school district’s fresh fruits and vegetables program, which promotes healthy eating, she said.
In preparation for the event, a number of students have been participating in the Build-a-Bike program, using gently used bicycle parts to assemble a bike.
“It gives kids a mechanical understanding of how the gears and the frame work, and the science behind it,” Nemeth said. “They get to take the bike home (to keep), which is great.”
The James Safe Schools Task Force is continuing to meet and discuss ideas on how to make the neighborhood safer for students to walk and bike to school. The task force is touring the neighborhood and taking note of dangerous sidewalks, overgrown brush, abandoned buildings and other safety issues. The task force is also using crime statistics from the police department to determine the safest routes for children to walk or bike to school. Another idea in the works is adding bicycle lanes and bicycle signage.
Lacey Henggeler, education ambassador for the Indian Mound Neighborhood Association, said the neighborhood supports biking and walking to school.
“It’s important to us because being such a small community school, I feel like this is something that would be a huge asset for the school district and community,” Henggeler said.
Parents walking with their children to school can create a cohesive community where neighbors interact with one another, she said. It also creates a feeling of community spirit and deters crime since more people are out and about doing positive things, she said.
“If our neighborhood is going to turn around and change for the better, it really needs to start with our kids because they’re our future and if we get them invested in our community, then that’s going to make them more proud to be in the Northeast and hopefully make them want to do good things for it instead of getting into trouble.”
During the May 8 event, parents will sign the students in and the school will take a group picture of students who bike to school and also hand out certificates. Both the police department and Indian Mound neighbors will provide an extra presence to ensure student safety, Nemeth said.
“I’m expecting a few bikes with training wheels and maybe even a tricycle or two,” Nemeth said. “It will be cute and promote health.”