‘Safe Routes to School’ celebrated in Parkrose

Here’s why so many kids and parents were heading for school on foot and bikes on Wednesday – and why officials say it’s important for them to keep on skipping the bus …

Groups of kids and parents join Prescott Elementary School’s principal, Michael Lopes (orange jacket, riding at the left), for “International Walk + Bike to School Day” in Parkrose.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
All across the greater Portland area, lots of kids didn’t catch a ride on their school bus – on purpose – on October 5.

These students weren’t skipping school, though; they were taking part in an event called “International Walk + Bike to School Day”.

About a block away from Prescott Elementary School in Parkrose, we found Principal Michael Lopes leading one “walking bus” south toward the school.

These kids look like they’re enjoying the hike to school, as they walk south along the edge of NE 104th Avenue. This, like many other Parkrose Neighborhood streets, have no sidewalks.

“This is important to us, because Prescott Elementary has been a participant in the ‘Safe Routes to School’ program for seven years – as long as I’ve been here at Prescott,” Lopes said, as he dismounted and walked his bicycle across the intersection at NE 104th Avenue and NE Prescott Street, enroute to school.

“The Safe Routes program has provided a lot of benefits to the school,” Lopes continued, “Including installing ‘speed bumps’ in front of the school, and a lot of educational things, like bike and pedestrian safety programs to help our kids be more comfortable and safe while walking and riding to school.”

Parkrose School District Superintendent Dr. Karen Fischer Gray, Prescott Elementary School Principal Michael Lopes, and Oregon Senator Jackie Dingfelder (D-Portland District 23) pause for a photo at “Safe Routes to School”.

Being a “Safe Routes” partner, Lopes added, “Has also pointed out the need for sidewalks in the neighborhood. As many people who aren’t from this immediate neighborhood are discovering this morning, there are few sidewalks here. It’s difficult for young kids to safely bike and walk to school without sidewalks.”

Arriving at the school’s playground, Lopes greeted students, as well as Parkrose Superintendent Dr. Karen Gray, Oregon Senator Jackie Dingfelder, and representatives from Multnomah County Health Department, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, the Portland Police Bureau, and the Portland Bureau of Transportation. “The great part of this event is that it highlights all the work we’ve done on this issue, here at Prescott Elementary,” he exclaimed.

Kids and their parents are engaged in learning activities, and are treated with “healthy snacks” when they arrive at the school.

But, the biggest benefit to kids, Lopes said, “is the long-term benefit – for our students to be active and healthy, which definitely benefits learning. That’s why I’m doing it, and I’m happy to see so many of our kids participating.”

Although originally scheduled to attend, Portland Mayor Sam Adams was absent. However, his representatives said that research shows that children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day – yet many students fall far short of that goal. Thus, the “Safe Routes to School” program, which works at reversing that trend.

Retired Portland Timbers player Scot Thompson signs autographs for kids.

“I know, myself, walking to school for two miles every day definitely helped my physical activity growing up,” agreed Scot Thompson, retired Portland Timbers alumni ambassador, as students swirled around him. “Little things like that go a long way, both for their education and for a more-healthy lifestyle.”

To learn more about the Portland “Safe Routes to School” program, see their website: CLICK HERE to open it.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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