Neighborhoods fill with kids on Walk to School Day

TUPELO – Joyner Elementary second-grader Elizabeth Gaines doesn’t normally get the opportunity to walk to school because she lives too far away.
On Wednesday morning, however, Gaines was one of about 30 Joyner Elementary students who met in the parking lot of a nearby church and walked as a group to the school’s entrance, about five minutes away.
Elizabeth said it was a good walk, although she admitted that she was just as excited about receiving a prize of SillyBandz for having completed her exercise.
The second-grader added that she would enjoy the opportunity to walk to school more often, “because it was fun.”
On a day when thousands of students across the United States walked through the neighborhoods near their schools, Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr. said he would like to see more students have the opportunity to do so more regularly.
Reed was among the school district and city leaders who visited Joyner on Wednesday morning to help celebrate International Walk to School Day.
Joyner joined schools in every state and more than 40 countries in celebrating the event, which aims to promote health, safe routes to school and environmentally friendly choices.
Some students trekked to Joyner from home, while several who live farther away, including Gaines, met in the parking lot of Oak Ridge Christian Church and ambled to campus from there.
Later, he said that he’d like to see the city place sidewalks within a mile of every school, with the possible exception of Tupelo High School.
With the city’s 2025 comprehensive plan seeking ways to make neighborhoods more livable and more walker-friendly, adding sidewalks near schools would be the best place to start, he said.
“I think the council agrees with me,” Reed said. “We just need to make it a priority in our capital expenditures.”
Such a commitment would excite Hank Boerner, director of the Wellness Center, who also participated in Joyner’s event as the co-chair of the Mayor’s Healthy Tupelo Task Force.
Boerner said he’d like to see more Tupelo schools adopt the concept of “walking school buses,” in which one parent picks up other students outside their homes as they walk in a group to school in the morning.
“As a city, we need to become more aggressive about putting sidewalks from the schools through the neighborhoods so kids can walk safely or ride bikes to school safely,” he said.
Julia Gaines helped organize Joyner’s event as the president of the school’s parent teacher association. She said that while not all children have the opportunity to walk to school, she hopes Wednesday’s event helps “promote exercise and fitness for all students.”
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.

Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal