RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – One-hundred Virginia schools registered and thousands of students participated Wednesday in “National Walk to School Day,” as a way to promote safety and good health.
Jack Busbice, a second-grader at Mary Munford Elementary School, says he enjoys walking to school with his parents because he gets to connect with nature.
While there were several resource officers and parent volunteers to help facilitate the day, several parents say those resources are not always there day-to-day.
They argue distracted and hurried drivers can create dangerous walking conditions.
Wendy Fewster, a Munford parent, said it is challenging on the days there’s not a crossing guard at her school.
“The cars don’t stop at crosswalks here.” Fewster said. “I’m not sure if that’s the law or not, but they don’t do it.”
Budget cuts have forced several school districts to eliminate or decrease the number of crossing guards, even for schools that are on extremely busy roads, with little or no sidewalks.
Sgt. Stacy Henry, a Richmond school resource supervisor, said school districts are relying more and more on the help from volunteers to help walk groups of children to school and serve as crossing guards.
“If parents get more involved, that’s a buy-in to the school system, and that’s a buy-in to the community.” Henry said.
School districts can also find help through federal funding.
Since 2007, the Virginia Department of Transportation has awarded eight infrastructure grants to Metro Richmond schools, totaling more than $2 million.
Last month, VDOT announced its five-year strategic plan to create safer routes to schools. While the application process is competitive, VDOT is encouraging school districts to apply.
“They can apply to get a sidewalk put in or they can apply for safety education planning and things like that,” VDOT spokesperson Robert Williams said.
Virginia Health and Human Services Secretary Bill Hazel said children who get exercise do better in school. He’s encouraging all families who live within a half-mile of their school, to give walking a try.
“I don’t think people think about it,” Hazel said. “They just don’t think about it but it gets the day off to a good start.”