Cleveland Elementary School on Alameda Padre Serra in Santa Barbara is a tough school to walk to at any age.
If students aren’t dealing with the dangerous roundabout where APS and Montecito Street merge, they’re hiking up the narrow sidewalks along APS. Or, like so many families do, they’re walking down heavily trafficked Salinas Street and relying on the ever-present Ms. Hazel to help them cross at Clifton Street.
Even with Hazel and her trusty vest, stop sign and stern looks, many parents have said that cars still don’t yield.
But amid all of this, many children walk to school. And on Thursday for the first official Walk to School Day, even more students and parents took to the streets.
With a student population of 405, more than 55 percent of the students joined in the fun. That was significant, as previous weeks the number of student walkers was closer to 15 percent.
Another clear indicator of success? A drop-off loop at 8:15 a.m., normally wedged with a line of cars waiting to drop off children, stood empty in the fog.
It was truly a collaborative effort as the student leadership council posted cut-outs of feet around campus to motivate their peers, teachers encouraged their students, moms from the PTA and English Learner class helped by greetings kids and handing out raffle tickets, and even Principal Michael Vail led a Walking School Bus with more than 20 kids — all dropped by parents who live too far away to walk the entire distance.
Students were greeted at the front of the school with snack bars, oranges, pencils and stickers, and each was entered in a prize drawing. As a mother from the English Learner class suggested, “How about fun prizes for the moms?” Many parents were grateful for the encouragement of healthy behaviors, and many students enjoyed the exercise and extra time with friends and family.
COAST’s Safe Routes to School will continue to work with the Cleveland community to establish long-lasting healthy behaviors, as Thursday was just the start of a long and rewarding process.
The next Walk to School Day at Cleveland Elementary will be Dec. 2.
— Courtney Dietz is executive director of COAST.