Students and parents making their way on foot to George Mason Elementary School Wednesday morning were greeted by a number of student crossing guards and Alexandria firefighters as part of the 13th annual International Walk to School Day.
All involved gave up their traditional wheeled forms of transportation to stretch their legs and get some fresh air, while many of the George Mason students wore bright green to symbolize the benefit to the environment and the benefit to their health.
At Mason, the day was the second in an eight-week series of Walking Wednesdays, an extended version modeled in the spirit of the first national walk-to-school event held in Chicago in 1997 when, according to the programs history, It was simply a day to bring community leaders and children together to create awareness of the need for communities to be walkable.
James K. Polk Elementary School also participated in Walk to School Day on Wednesday.
The Alexandria students were part of a worldwide walking force comprising 5,000 schools from all 50 states, as well as children and adults in 40 countries around the world, according to the National Center for Safe Routes to School.
This years Walk to School Day is another outlet for the nations renewed commitment to helping children walk and bike safely to school, which really went into full force in 2005 after Congress passed federal legislation establishing a national Safe Routes to School program.
Since its inception, the program has dedicated a total of $612 million towards developing safe routes to school and promoting walking and biking, according to its website.
According to an ACPS spokesperson, these efforts will help school communities reduce traffic, fuel consumption and air pollution. Bicycle and pedestrian safety programs, bike rodeos, Walk to School Days and other school events will help educate students and encourage them to increase their fitness levels.
And, this year, ACPSs commitment to a healthier commute has received a shot in the arm from the state government, as the Virginia Department of Transportation awarded Alexandria schools a $95,000 Safe Routes to School grant last month.
According to the school system, the nine schools participating in the program include Charles Barrett, George Mason, Matthew Maury, Mount Vernon, James Polk, William Ramsay and Samuel Tucker elementary schools and the Francis C. Hammond and George Washington middle school campuses.
Alexandrias Safe Routes to School activities began September 30 when about 450 students from Mount Vernon walked to school along with parents, teachers and community leaders, getting an early start on International Walk to School Month.