Learning on the way to school

Posted: Sunday, October 21, 2001

The walk to school: same route, same time, every weekday. It can become so routine that students and their parents don't give it a second thought.

But there can be hazards, such as a blind curve, an unleashed dog or dark corners.

Identifying those potential dangers and finding remedies are the goals of National Walk to School Day, scheduled for Juneau this Thursday.

"We're trying to see what's out there, and what we can do about it," said Karen Lawfer, Juneau SAFE KIDS Coalition coordinator.

To accomplish that, elementary and middle school students will be given a letter and checklist this week to take home to their parents. Parents are asked to accompany their child to school or to their bus stop Thursday, observe the walking conditions and write comments on the checklist.

Copies of the collected comments will be provided to schools, parent groups, city and police officials and the state highway safety office to review and possibly take action.

Harborview Elementary School will not participate on Oct. 25. Instead, it will hold the event on either Oct. 24 or Nov. 7 to coincide with other parent activities.

Last October, the first time Walk to School Day was held in Juneau, organizers collected 317 parent checklists representing 448 students from seven elementary schools.

"Last year it was a normal Juneau day zero visibility and fog," Lawfer said. Some parents said they were "just amazed" at the conditions on their children's walk to school, she said.

The top three issues of concern from October 2000 were clearing sidewalks of ice and snow, motorists driving too fast and recklessly, and inadequate sidewalks.

Lawfer said parent comments played a role in lowering speed limits and taking other safety measures near Mendenhall River Community School.

Lawfer said the timing of the event is important. Late October is when darkness becomes a factor on the walk to and from school, and when winter weather starts to occur.

In addition, this is National School Bus Safety Week. Bus drivers will report safety observations, and the event is also designed as a pre-Halloween reminder about safety while trick-or-treating.

Beyond this week, Lawfer said, schools will be given prizes to hand out over the next month to students observed to be safe pedestrians.

Glacier Valley Elementary School Principal Bernie Sorenson said the survey is a good way to remind students and their parents to be cautious on the way to and from school.

Sorenson said with a large portion of Glacier Valley's student body walking to school, and the busy Mendenhall Loop Road nearby, there is a need to reiterate safety lessons.

For more information or to make comments after Oct. 25, visit the program Web site at http://www.chems.alaska.gov/ems_ip_walk_to_school2001.htm.

To download information and comments gathered from last year's survey, visit: http://chems.alaska.gov/ems_injury_prevention.htm.

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Andrew Krueger can be reached at akrueger@juneauempire.com.



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