Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

A parade of 200 students marched from Wesley’s Park in Franklin all the way to the doors of East Franklin Elementary School last Thursday morning. The walk was in celebration of International Walk to School Day. Students were dropped off at the park by parents and were escorted to school by 60 adults including members of the Macon County Sheriff’s Office and the Franklin Police Department.

The event was headed up by Jackie Moore with Active Routes to School and was sponsored by the town of Franklin, East Franklin Elementary School and local law enforcement. Schools from across the country, including East Franklin, participated in the International Walk to School Day last week, which was officially recognized on Oct. 5. The event was first started in 1997 and is now celebrated in all 50 states and in 40 countries across the world.

Members of the community who volunteered to keep students safe during the walk were provided with safety vests and traffic control ensured the sidewalks were safe.

The event is spearheaded by Active Routes to School which is a NC Safe Routes to School Project supported by a partnership between the NC Department of Transportation and the NC Division of Public Health. Through this project there are ten Active Routes to School project coordinators working across North Carolina to make it easier for elementary and middle school students to safely walk and bike to school.

The project coordinators work with partners in their communities to increase:

– One-time awareness events about the importance of Safe Routes to School.

– The number of ongoing programs that encourage walking and biking to or at school.

– The number of trainings on how to implement Safe Routes to School-related activities.

– The number of policies that support walking and biking to or at school.

– The number of safety features near schools.

In addition to working directly with schools, the project coordinators work within communities to identify opportunities for shared use of facilities and complete streets to improve access to physical activity.

Franklin Town Planner Justin Setser first presented members of the town board with the idea of partnering with Active Routes to School since the organization’s mission falls in line with the town’s goal of making Franklin more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. The partnership promoted safe routes to school while raising awareness of Franklin’s streets and sidewalks.

Mayor Bob Scott spoke to the nearly 300 people in attendance Thursday morning and noted that by creating opportunities for the town’s youth to safety walk and bike to school, the overall health and wellness of the community will be improved.

Walk to School Day events are intended to raise awareness of the need to create safer routes for walking and bicycling and emphasize the importance of issues such as increasing physical activity among children, pedestrian safety, traffic congestion and concern for the environment. The events build connections between families, school and the broader community.

cartoogachayeCartoogechaye Elementary School held a Walk at School day on Monday to give students the opportunity to have a similar experience and learn about safety measures needed.

International Walk to School Day is held every October.