Walking to school was never so festive.
On a cold morning in the Heights on Wednesday, nearly the entire student body of May Street School walked to school together.
About 380 of the school’s 418 students, along with 30 staff members and about 60 parents, walked to school from the Hood River Shopping Center.
“I thought it basically was flawless,” said principal Dan Patton of the school’s first “National Walk to School Day” event. “People are already talking about next year.”
The students rallied in front of Rosauers, with the local trio Red-Haired Boys blowing steam as they sang from the bed of a pickup truck. Balloons, signs for each grade level, and a general air of excitement filled the air.
The rally gave parents and teachers a chance to get acquainted. For May Street, the event was a bridge between Tuesday’s visit by the Hood River Fire Department to teach fire safety, and Thursday’s annual school open house.
To start the walk, police chief Tony Dirks told the crowd, “We’re going to get a little workout and walk to school.” With that, the throng headed out of the parking lot and up the sidewalk and one closed lane of 12th Street. The walk constricted traffic between 7:40 and 8 a.m., but police officers stationed along the route said drivers were universally patient.
May Street, with a large population of students who go to school on foot, joined the national effort under the sponsorship of city, county and state agencies.
“Our emergency professionals were just tremendous. I was expecting good things but it far surpassed what I expected,” Patton said.
“I am always continually impressed with the supportive nature of our business community, and the police and fire departments,” he said. “Whenever, schools are involved in something it’s always, ‘what can we do?’”
School Resource Officer Tiffany Hicks said, “It’s been a great event. This is one of those things I love about this town. You say you’re going to do an event, and everybody shows up. Lots of people contribute.” Heights Business Association passed out certificates as students completed the walk, and police officers and firefighters stood watch at intersections.
The goal of the event was to emphasize the value of physical exercise along with safe ways to walk to school and in neighborhoods. Patton felt it achieved that objective.
“In combination with the assembly that (state troopers) Corey Simons and Julie Wilcox gave last week, when they outlined the reasoning and objectives and then with support given in classroom I think this was a culminating event that was very successful,” he said.
Parent Bill Cimock said, “For them to come to the schools and then follow it up with something like this is even better.”
Cimock, who walked with his daughter, first-grader Korey, said the experience will help her for the day when she walks to the bus stop, and in other situations where she’ll be a pedestrian.
“It’s also important they understand the police and fire are supportive parts of the community, that they’re here to help us,” Cimock said. “She’s seen me get a ticket, and she cried, so this is a good way to show that the police and firefighters are here to help us.”
Korey said of the walk, “It’s okay. I’m getting really good at walking. We walked all the way around a huge lake.” (Lost Lake, Bill clarified.)
Bill said Korey learned from firefighters Tuesday about fire tucks and “stop drop and roll” and played 9-1-1 on her toy phone that night.
Staff were present throughout the school to meet those students who chose not to walk; Patton said that before school, about 30 kids enjoyed supervised play in the gym.
But the large turnout was a slight surprise and one of two things that stood out for Patton.
“First was getting the entire community involved, and number two, we don’t do a lot of things as the whole school,” he said. “So it was neat to have the majority of the school doing something together.”