This year, for the first time, Fairfax County Public Schools are embracing International Walk to School Day on October 5 system-wide. In the past, participating in IWTSD was suggested, but not strongly encouraged by the administration, so few schools participated. A positive, strong message was sent by Superintendent Dale to lend his words of encouragement and support in a press release last week (see below). With the support of Superintendent Dale we are hopeful that more schools than ever before will join in a celebration of healthy daily activity and walk or bike to school on October 5! Fairfax County Police will join in on the action by coordinating their pedestrian safety initiative to occur in the last week of September. In addition, the Fairfax County Council of PTAs drafted their own statement of support in an email to all members and praised Superintendent Dale’s initiative. This exciting development came about thanks to months of work by our Fairfax County Safe Routes to School task force, made up of WABA staff, FABB, Trails for Youth, parents and concerned Fairfax County Board of Supervisor members. It’s not to late to register YOUR school for IWTSD! Please see walktoschool.org to register! Gina Arlotto is the DC and regional Safe Routes to School Network Coordinator. Her work focuses on making it safer for children to walk or bike to and from school. ++++++++++++++++++ FCPS embraces International Walk to School system-wide in 2011 – Make sure your school is part of October 5th. Over the past year, interested parents, citizens and representatives of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB), Washington Area Bicycling Association (WABA) and Trails for Youth have been meeting with leaders from Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the FCPS School Board, the FCCPTA and the Fairfax County Education Coalition (FEC) to encourage FCPS to address the decline in children walking and biking to school. As a result of these meetings, on October 5th FCPS is embracing a system-wide promotion of International Walk to School Day – an effort to promote physical activity and reduce traffic congestion and pollution near schools. Superintendent Jack D. Dale and Fairfax County Executive Tony Griffin are joining forces to encourage county residents to take part. “Walking is a simple way to incorporate physical activity into your day,” said Dale. “We encourage all FCPS students and families to participate in this day and to use walking or biking as a means of getting to school whenever possible.” Students at all school levels are encouraged to walk or bike to school or walk to their bus stop on October 5. Parents are encouraged to accompany their children to school and to work with their school and PTA or PTO to assemble walking groups for the event. Schools that want to participate can register online at the Walk to School website. We need your assistance in getting the word out so that local schools can join with the SIX that have already signed up and started their planning for International Walk to School Day. In addition, the FCCPTA passed a resolution earlier this year in support of Safe Routes to School. In 1969, approximately 50% of children walked or bicycled to school and 87% of children living within one mile of school did. Today, fewer than 15% of school children walk or bicycle to school. As a result, kids today are less active, less independent, and less healthy. So as to better understand how to find solutions to this 35% decrease, FCPS has created a Safe Routes to School working group made up of FCPS and County employees, members of the community from the groups mentioned and the Fairfax County Police Department. Wolftrap Elementary School and Vienna Elementary School are two of several Fairfax County public schools which have established bike and walk to school initiatives. Wolftrap began its program with general bike and walking education for all students in addition to establishing a monthly run Wolfie’s bike train where students bike to school together when weather permits. The school also moved its Kiss and Ride drop-off and pick-up spots in order to separate automobile traffic from pedestrian traffic. Vienna Elementary is embarking on a plan to create Walking Wednesdays and has applied for a grant to install missing sidewalks along many of its walking routes. Both schools joined Cunningham Park Elementary School in May 2011 to have a Bike and Walk to School Challenge between the three schools. Over the course of the week, 400 children biked and 2100 walked to school and each school saw parent use of Kiss and Ride drop by nearly 50%. Several public officials joined in during the week and some shared their perspective on walking to school. In addition, you can read about how the installation of a bridge near Kilmer Middle School ultimately led to so many students bicycling to school that the PTA had to install new racks. For more information, read up on Safe Routes on the FABB site or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.