There was no curbside service at school Wednesday morning for Charlevoix middle school students who ride the bus. Instead students were dropped off a half mile away and told to hoof it the rest of the way to class.
School leaders are trying to encourage kids to be more active. They’re also pushing for a safer commute for those who already walk to school. In fact, Principal Travis Garrett says for some of his students who already walk to school the commute is downright dangerous. Picture middle schoolers in the morning crossing Bridge Street with no crosswalk. That’s the four-lane stretch of U-S Highway 31 that crosses through Charlevoix.
Garrett’s working with city and health officials, appealing to the state Transportation Department for major improvements, including reduced speeds along the roadway during school hours. Garrett wants a crosswalk with zebra stripes and pedestrian-operated crossings.
“So my goal is to create a safer crossing zone for students coming across Bridge Street,” he says. “That was my original goal but now it’s larger. Now it’s all-encompassing. We want to get kids active, walking to school, biking to school and get the community active.”
Safely inside the gymnasium shortly after 8:00 am, Garrett asks students for a drumroll as he presents two brand new mountain bikes donated by area businesses. The bikes will be raffled later this year, after several events just like today.
Almost the entire student body walked the last leg of thei commutes together.
But students may need little added incentive. Even before the assembly and the big announcement, many were already on board, including 7th Grader Madison Olach. She usually takes the bus, but today it stopped a half mile short of the school, forcing her to walk:
“It’s, like, to get fit,” she says. “And so, that we can get, like… they want more of a cross walk with, like, a little light so people will stop more so the kids can walk safely, because kids have been dodging cars.”
Students On Board
Perhaps surprising on a cold and damp morning, there was relatively little grumbling among the 200-plus students who packed the bus garage before starting their walk.
Seventh Grader Mikey Webb, his football gear slung over the handlebars of his bike, seems to agree with the experts who worry this generation is far too sedentary, with rising obesity rates and related diseases. He says kids don’t get enough exercise.
“Not really. They sit on the computer, sit watching TV or playing video games or whatever, so this is a good idea,” he says.
But another 7th grade student doesn’t think the school is going far enough.
“Not very effective exercise,” says Phil Conway, who runs cross country. “I mean walking to school is good, but we should run to school or something.”