The Mary Lee Burbank School celebrated Massachusetts Walk to School Day on Wednesday, May 7, with a record 255 students who walked or biked to school, or walked a circuit around the school before the day began.
Walk to School Day and related programs are organized by the Burbank Walks PTA Committee in partnership with Massachusetts Safe Routes to School.
Built in the 1930s as a neighborhood school, Burbank still has a relatively small district. The majority of students live within half a mile of the school. While many families do walk to school regularly, Burbank’s PTA has made a huge push this year to actively encourage more walking and biking in order to reduce traffic congestion around the school which was leading to concerns for student safety.
“It’s terrific to see so many students and families walking” said Burbank’s Principal Tricia Clifford.
“Walking to school promotes wellness and strengthens our community,” she said.
Celebrity Walkers were out to greet students and walk with them to school, including Laurie Graham of the Belmont School Committee, Belmont Police Officer Michael Horan, and John MacDonald of the Belmont Fire Department. Ten Burbank staff members also took part as Celebrity Walkers and helpers.
When students arrived at school they signed their name in chalk on the Burbank Walks Hall of Fame.
Burbank also launched a new initiative on Walk to School Day: Walking School Buses. In partnership with Massachusetts Safe Routes to School, the Burbank PTA conducted a Walking Assessment and then planned four new Walking School Bus routes. In a Walking School Bus a group of children walk to school together accompanied by parent “bus drivers” and following a set route with stops to pick up ‘passengers’ along the way. On Walk to School Day more than 60 children participated in a Walking School Bus and had fun walking with their neighbors.
Burbank is encouraging students to continue to walk regularly through the spring term. Walking School Buses will operate every Wednesday, dubbed Walking Wednesdays, through the end of the school year. The pilot Walking School Bus program will be reviewed and expanded for the new school year in September.
On each Walking Wednesday this spring, Burbank’s classes will compete for a Burbank Walks Trophy. The grade Kindergarten to two grade class with the most students walking or biking to school will win the Golden Sneaker Trophy, while third and fourth grade classes compete for the Silver Sneaker award. The trophies are presented to the winning classes by Principal Clifford, to be displayed for a week in the classroom until the following Walking Wednesday contest.
The Butler elementary school also celebrated Massachusetts Walk/Bike to School Day on May 7.