Montana State University

Bozeman elementary students kick-start International Walk to School program Oct. 3

September 27, 2007

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Students from Bozeman's Emily Dickinson School will walk to school Wednesday along with parents, teachers, community leaders, police bike officers, staff of the Montana Nutrition and Physical Activity Program at MSU and Carlo, their school mascot Newfoundland dog.

The school has the support of the Montana Department of Transportation Safe Routes to School program, and assistance from the Bozeman Safe Routes to School Task Force as well as the City of Bozeman in this bid to participate as people from around the world celebrate International Walk to School Day on Oct. 3.

The "walking school bus" will start at 27th St. and Annie at 8 a.m. and most walkers will arrive at the school by 8:15 a.m., said Cathy Costakis of the program.

The program, which is intended to help create safer walking and bicycling routes, is also intended to emphasize the importance of increasing children's physical activity, said Robbye Hamburgh, principal of Emily Dickinson School.

At the Bozeman City Commission meeting Oct. 1, Mayor Jeff Krauss will proclaim October to be Walk to School Month. A Walk to School Day kick-off party will be held at Emily Dickinson School from 6-8 p.m. Oct. 2.

Thirty years ago, nearly half of all children walked or biked to school, Costakis said. Today, that number has dropped to less than 15 percent, and as much as 25 percent of morning rush-hour traffic can be school-related, she said, making it ironic that traffic is one of the reasons most frequently cited by parents for not allowing their children to walk.

Students, parents and teachers are encouraged to walk, bike, and wheel to school everyday when possible, Hamburgh said.

Emily Dickinson kids who track the times they walk, bike or wheel from home or from designated drop-off points will be eligible for prizes like reflective backpacks, bicycle helmets and reflector stickers. For the kids that for some reason cannot walk or bike there will be an at school walking club and they will be eligible for the prizes if they participate in that

In the U.S., International Walk to School Day is expected to include 5,000 schools from all 50 states. Walkers from the U.S. will be a part of a similar emphasis by children and adults in 40 countries around the world.

The Bozeman Safe Routes to School Task Force is working with Emily Dickinson Elementary as a pilot school and intends to work with other elementary and middle schools in the future.

"The goals of the Task Force are to create environments where kids can safely walk and bike, educate kids on safety issues, and make it fun for kids to participate, thus building lifelong skills and habits that support healthy active living and more sustainable and connected communities, Costakis said. The Bozeman City Commission has provided financial support to the effort in Bozeman as is the Bozeman School District.

For more information on the Bozeman program or to volunteer to join the SRTS Task Force, contact Cathy Costakis at Montana State University, (406) 994-5734 or costakis@montana.edu. For information about the statewide program please contact the Montana SRTS Coordinator: Virginia Summey, Phone: 877-935-7233 vsummey-hmhb@qwest.net

The following Web sites provide additional information: International Walk to School in the USA at www.walktoschool.org , the National Center for Safe Routes to School at www.saferoutesinfo.org and Montana Safe Routes to School at www.mdt.mt.gov/pubinvolve/saferoutes

Contact: Cathy Costakis at MSU, cell: (406) 581-8650 or Robbye Hamburgh, Emily Dickinson principal, cell: 579-8924, robbye.hamburgh@bsd7.org