More than 350 Soldotna elementary students, family members and school staff gathered Wednesday morning to walk to school as apart of the annual Walk to School Day celebration.
The event, celebrated annually by Redoubt and Soldotna Elementary schools, is a way for families to get moving and learn about pedestrian safety. The event was coordinated with the school district and Kenai Peninsula Coalition of Safe Kids.
John Pothast, principal of Redoubt Elementary, said the group of 225 that walked from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, at the corner of Redoubt and Fireweed Avenues to the school. Before they started their walk, Kenai Peninsula Mayor Mike Navarre, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Steve Atwater and Redoubt Elementary librarian Sharon Hale passed out reflector zipper pulls to student so they would be more visible.
Atwater said he was glad to be apart of the event.
“The annual walk your child to school day is a (way) to demonstrate the importance of wellness to our students,” Atwater said. “I very much appreciate the coordination efforts that KPBSD staff take to make this day a success.”
“It was fantastic,” Pothast said. “That was by far the biggest group we had.”
He said a big goal of the annual event, which the school has celebrated for the past nine years, is to boost awareness of safety.
“The big thing is to bring awareness to the big number of kids walking or biking (to school). We have got kids on our roads, and we have to be careful,” he said. “That safety awareness is a big reason we do this.”
Along with the large walking group, a fire engine from Central Emergency Services was on hand, as well as two Soldotna Police Patrol Officers.
“We were very happy. They join us every year,” Pothast said.
Melinda Hershberger walked with her 5-year-old grandson, Caiden. She said they enjoyed the walk and it had many benefits.
“It was good exercise for the community,” she said. “The whole thing was rather a treat for (Caiden).”
Hershberger, who lives outside of the city limits, said her grandson enjoyed the new experience and after school they talked about the event. She said he understood the concept of safety and walking on sidewalks, as well as looking both ways before crossing a crosswalk. He asked questions, turning the simple walk to school into an informative lesson of safety.
Along with students, parents and other family members, teachers and support staff enjoyed the walk with their students.
First year second-grade teacher Samantha Lamphier joined the walk with many of her Redoubt students. She said the school sent home information to families about the event.
“I saw many of my second graders with their families walking this morning,” she said. “It is wonderful to see the families of Redoubt Elementary come together and enjoy a simple stroll to school.”
She said she plans on taking the walk again next year.
“It was a lot of fun and a great way to start the day,” she said.
Lamphier said along with the safety aspect, keeping active is a big part of her student’s day.
“Movement is constantly part of our school day. From rotating literacy and math centers to mind breaks and recess, my students keep their mind and body active,” she said.
Soldotna Elementary Principal Teri Diamond said 125 students and their families participated in the event. The group met at United Methodist Church behind Safeway. The group walked down Binkley to Park Avenue to the school.
“This was our second year,” Diamond said. “We are excited and happy to be in partnership with the Kenai Peninsula Coalition of Safe Kids. This opportunity provides time for family, students and our school to come together and teach students about being safe and healthy while out in the community.”
She said only a few students who attend Soldotna Elementary walk, but many more are out in the community after school hours on bikes and walking.
“By us all getting together we are able to not only model, but also send the message to our children that we need to stop and think about safety when playing, and that matters to all of us,” Diamond said.
Sara J. Hardan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org