Editor, The Spotlight:
We are happy to introduce a new tradition in our community that is quickly taking root, the Walk to School Day event that three Bethlehem schools celebrated on Oct. 9. While Walk to School Day (and its sister event, Bike to School Day, in May) is only one day of the year, the goal is much greater: to promote safe walking and bicycling as part of our everyday lives and throughout the whole year.
This is how, on a beautiful fall morning, three of Bethlehem’s elementary schools brought the International Walk to School effort – celebrated by over 4,000 schools around the world – to our doorsteps. Elsmere Elementary, a school struggling everyday to deal with daunting traffic issues just outside its front door, celebrated its first-ever Walk to School Day supported by Principal Kate Kloss with an estimated 100 students participating. Slingerlands Elementary continued the tradition for a second year by gathering the 225 students who walked in a group activity led by its physical education teachers Robin Young and Joanna Crawford and Principal Heidi Bonacquist around the school’s athletic fields. At Hamagrael Elementary, neighbors were astounded as they watched crowds numbering 250 participate in a group ‘walking school bus’ led by Bethlehem School Superintendent Dr. Thomas Douglas, Principal Dave Ksanznak and Officer Mike Whiteley of the Bethlehem Police Department.
These elementary schools were not alone in this exemplary effort, but were supported by the Bethlehem Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee and its Roll Model campaign to promote safe walking, biking and driving; several parent volunteers, the Healthy Kids Committee, Physical Education Departments and PTA/PTO members at each school; the Bethlehem Police Department with extra patrols; Shop Rite and Price Chopper for food donations; Capital CoExist and NYS DOT for handouts and educational materials; and Albany County for the electronic message signs leading up to the event.
This year, Bethlehem had the honor of having more schools participate in the Walk to School Day event than any other municipality in the Capital Region. We hope to see this new tradition continue to grow – and with it, bring growing attention to the need for safe walking, biking and driving practices in our community. For whether we have lived here our whole lives or just moved here recently to start a family, the desire to create a more walkable, bikeable – and ultimately liveable – community is shared.
For more information on how to participate in a Walk or Bike to School Day event, please visit walkbiketoschool.org. For more information on walking and biking initiatives in the Town of Bethlehem, please visit townofbethlehem.org/330/Bicycle-Pedestrian-Program.
Maureen Cunningham (Hamagrael Parent), Jason Gallo (Slingerlands Parent) and Jen Spore (Elsmere Parent)