Students, parents will walk en masse in the Heights

May Street Elementary School students will parade down the Heights business corridor on Wednesday as part of a national fitness and safety celebration.

One lane of traffic on 12th Street will be closed to traffic as more than 400 members of the student body will walk from the Hood River Shopping Center to May Street School.

Students will report to their teachers between 7:15-7:35 a.m. at the shopping center. They will be joined for National Walk to School Day by family members, Principal Dan Patton, Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, community leaders, and representatives from public safety agencies.

“This is just a great opportunity for public officials and police to interact with kids of this age,” said Hood River City Police Chief Tony Dirks.

He has organized the event in cooperation with the Hood River Fire Department, Hood River Commission on Children and Families and the Oregon State Police. The purpose of the program is to promote actively healthy lifestyles, pedestrian safety and to build unity within the community.

“It’s real encouragement for the kids to see this community support,” Patton said.

Bus riders will be dropped off in the staging area on Oct. 2 and assemble with their peers who already walk each day next to their respective classroom teachers. The procession is scheduled to begin at 7:40 a.m. and the Heights businesses will show their support by posting signs in their windows to cheer the students on. Dirks asks motorists using the one open lane through the business district to be extra vigilant for the 20 minutes it takes the young troop to travel down 12th and June streets to the school.

The Oregon State Police prepared the May Street students for the outing with a briefing this week on traffic and pedestrian safety. Patton said students will be closely monitored by their escorts during the activity.

“I think it’s going to be somewhat of a festive atmosphere,” he said.

The Heights Business Association will hand out certificates to students who walk.

Last year, nearly 3 million children, parents and community leaders from 21 countries around the world rallied for the walk that was started in 1994 by Great Britain. In 1997 the Partnership for a Walkable America was formed to orchestrate the event in the United States. The membership in that organization includes the National Safety Council, Walking Magazine, Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Institute of Transportation Engineers, National Association of Governors, Federal Highway Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Shape up America! and National SAFE KIDS Campaign.

According to the PWA, last year more than 300,000 children, parents, mayors, legislators, health and safety advocates and community officials across America participated in the program. That total included participants from 850 schools in 170 cities and 34 states.

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