CLAYTON — Families braved the chilly air Wednesday morning, taking a step in a healthy direction by walking to school at East Clayton Elementary.
More than 300 children walked to school on International Walk to School Day.
While walking her dog Riley on a leash, Lee Ann Roberson led a group of five children to school on the trail that connects Flowers Plantation to East Clayton.
“There was no traffic since we were on the trail,” Roberson said.
Their route was a mile and a half.
When asked if they would like to do it again, all five children said in unison, “Yes.”
“We get to hang out with friends this way,” said Trey Blake.
Another child in the group, Emma Clark, admitted she was a little tired after the walk.
Some children on the walk carried their band instruments, many moms pushed strollers.
Chenoa Pysar and her daughter, Jocelyn Pysar, walked a mile to school from East Lake, a subdivision in Flowers Plantation. But the trek was not out of the ordinary for them.
“Yesterday my two kids rode their scooters to school,” Pysar said.
Pysar said when they lived in Arizona, most families walked to school. The family has also lived in Denmark, where biking and walking to get around are the norm.
Pysar worked with East Clayton’s principal and Parent Teacher Association to make Walk to School Day happen. She said she wanted to encourage other families to walk and to draw attention to changes needed to make walking safer.
“It shows that a lot of us are concerned about having a healthy lifestyle, and this is a step in the right direction to have crosswalks put in place,” Pysar said.
Pysar, who grew up walking to school, said she would like to see more families embrace the habit. But first, the school needs to make sure that children can walk to school safely.
A healthy partnership
For Walk to School Day, East Clayton partnered with the Johnston County Public Health Department. Staff from the Health Department were on hand to check on students, help them cross the street and control traffic.
Jaime Pearce is lead coordinator for Johnston County’s Community Transformation Grant project. Johnston is one of eight counties sharing in the $420,000 federal grant.
Through the grant, the health department is working with town and county planners to try to make Johnston communities healthier. Among other things, the health department is visiting Johnston towns, counting crosswalks, stoplights and sidewalks to measure walkability.
East Clayton Elementary has hurdles to walkability. Heavily-traveled N.C. 42, which passes in front of the school, has no sidewalk. Neither do other roads leading to the campus.
East Clayton Principal Patty Whittington said she was amazed at the interest in walking to school. “We have a huge interest but no crosswalk or sidewalk,” she said.
Whittington said she’d like to work with her school’s safety team, parents and teachers to make walking safer. “I’d like to see a sidewalk go from the front of the school to the start of the trail going to Flowers,” she said.
In addition to making communities more walkable, the Community Transformation Grant project supports active living by asking towns to consider building parks and playgrounds.
In Archer Lodge, Pearce and her team are working with town leaders to devote land to outdoor recreation.
Other counties in the grant program have worked with churches and schools to make their gyms and playgrounds accessible to neighborhoods that lack them.