Brightly colored backpacks bobbed along a sidewalk on Mill Road in Westhampton Beach on Wednesday morning, as 100 children headed toward Westhampton Beach Elementary School.
For the second year, the school’s Wellness Committee promoted participation in International Walk to School Day and about a fourth of the school’s students joined in.
International Walk to School Day takes place on the same day across the world but is organized locally. According to walktoschool.org, 12 other school districts on Long Island also participated.
Parent Amy Farnan, co-chair of the Wellness Committee, said the school began participating last year in order to encourage a healthy community. “It’s a healthy way to start your day, be active and see your friends before school,” she said.
On Wednesday, students, parents and school staff met in a Waldbaum’s parking lot at 8 a.m. and walked about a half mile together to the school.
Farnan said though driving to meet at Waldbaum’s reduces the “green-ness” of the event, it was the best option for the community in terms of safety and feasibility because some students live too far from school to walk.
“This makes it more of a community event, too,” she said.
For many students, walking to school meant waking up a little earlier, but Farnan’s son Luke, 9, said it was also a chance to see friends sooner.
“I got to hang out with more of my friends, and I didn’t have to just sit in the car,” said Isabella Tobin, 9, who walked with her new puppy, Rocco, in her arms. “And we all got to play with my puppy.”
Tobin said her parents usually drive to school but International Walk to School Day has made her want to try to walk other places more often. “But with my friends,” she added.
Gage Rubio, 9, of Westhampton Beach, said he lives less than a mile from school and often walks to class. “This is good for kids who have never walked to school before,” he said. “And it’s good for the environment. It conserves energy.”
Principal Lisa Slover said the school’s Wellness Committee focuses on finding unique ways to promote healthy activities, and she was happy with the walk’s turnout. She said the school has a large district, and many students can’t walk to school normally.
“It gives everybody the opportunity to walk to school as a family,” she said. “And promotes a community event.”