It was a perfect fall day – bright and sweater-wearing cool – for a walk Wednesday, Oct. 10, and about 16 parents and children gathered at the corner of Payson Road and Common Street as the nearby Belmont-Watertown Methodist Church's bells chimed eight times.
Walking up Common Street came Meaghan Clow, a fourth-grade teacher at the Wellington Elementary School who the day before earned tenure. Soon afterwards, Belmont Police Officer Melissa O’Connor showed up to the corner.
"Are we ready to go?" said Clow, and the group – which included newly-minted School Committee member Lisa Fiore and Wellington PTO co-president Angela Chan – set off down Common to Wellington to celebrate with students from around the globe on International Walk to School Day.
While half of all
U.S. school children walked to
school in 1973, today less than 10 percent of
school children in kindergarten
to 10th grade walk to school and
less than 2 percent bicycle. The goal of Safe Routes to School (an initiative within the Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation's MassRides program) is to get students and parents back to a routine of walking to class.
And on several Belmont streets leading to the Wellington, Burbank and Butler schools, groups of parents and children marched class-bound, filling the sidewalks.
For Constantine Zeldovick, who was walking with his first grade son, Jacob, said the day was "an opportunity for parents and children to talk on the way to school and its also good for the environment."
Walking to school was all Maggie Delaroca ever did growing up in Guatemala ("Everyday!" she said) but Wednesday was something special for her and her son, Joel.
"This is nice to do," she said.
Diane Hutchins-Fridmann, who organized this year's event – which appeared to have the largest number of participants in the history of the walk – expanded the number of locations where the walkers took off from, adding one near Cushing Square and near Grove Street to attract more students to the event.
"If it gets kids to walk to school, then this will be a success.
Clow said empirical evidence shows that children who are active in the morning are able to learn better throughout the day which is why the school has a structured activity before school.
"It also leads to opportunities for socializing when you walk with students you know from school. And I love it," she said. "It's a great way to start the day."