Edson Elementary Encourages Walking to School!

Many parents might have fond memories of walking or biking to school and want the same for their children. However, there is a lot that goes behind the scenes to make that possibility both safe and fun! The Creating Healthy Schools and Communities (CHSC) team works with schools in the Kingston City School District to make these opportunities for physical activity as well as nutrition happen.

One such school that the CHSC team works with is Edson Elementary School, which has an active Wellness Committee dedicated to creating healthy opportunities for their students.

A major focus of this Committee has been to make routes to school safer for those walking, rolling, and biking through a approach. SRTS is an approach that encourages active transport to school through improving infrastructure, enforcement, safety education, and incentives to promote walking and biking. Edson Elementary has made huge strides in promoting Safe Routes to School through policy, systems, and environmental changes that ban cars from parking in pedestrian pathways to fun events like school-wide walk and roll to school days. Of course, having supportive leadership is key to success. The school’s principal, Kathy Lowell, is an avid cyclist herself and prioritizes safe walking and biking education and promotion.

Read below to learn more about each of these exciting activities and important changes!

Walking School Bus

The Wellness Committee set a goal to start a walking school bus, which simply put, is a group of students walking to school with one or more adults- kind of like a carpool, but without the car! Students who live within a half a mile from the school are designated walkers and are not provided with bus transportation. There are many designated walking students at Edson and some walk nearly everyday rain or shine, while others are frequently driven. The wellness committee identified many reasons to start a walking school bus, including increasing attendance rates, helping students get the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity, helping students focus and have better academic achievement, reducing traffic congestion, environmental reasons, and creating an overall culture of walking. Walking in a group helps increase visibility of pedestrians and promote a sense of comradery.

There were some safety concerns that needed to be addressed before launching the walking school bus, including the morning traffic congestion that leaves little space for pedestrians to walk safely. Now that some of these concerns have been addressed, the walking school bus will be piloted two times this school year, with the hope that next school year it can run on an ongoing basis!

Infrastructure Improvements

Infrastructure improvements are key to creating safer streets and making walking and biking an easy choice. Officials from the City of Kingston met with Edson parents and school authorities to address concerns they had about the safety of pedestrians during heavy traffic congestion times. Currently, there are a limited number of sidewalks leading to Edson, which can lead to students walking on private property to avoid cars. To address this, Mayor Noble issued an executive order to add more signage that indicates no parking or standing during school hours. This has significantly improved the traffic congestion, making it safer for walking students. Long term goals include designating non-driving areas through painted striping and new sidewalks.

Safety Education

The Creating Healthy Schools coordinator and Edson Wellness Committee brought bicycle safety education to Edson students with an amazing assembly featuring the YMCA Bicycle Program 

manager who taught the second and third grade students about the importance of wearing a helmet. The assembly culminated in two brand-new bicycles being raffled off to two lucky students, free helmets, and healthy snacks for all!

Walking Events

To celebrate their hard work towards creating a walking school bus and the city-wide efforts at making Kingston’s streets more walkable, the Edson Elementary School wellness committee held a walk to school day celebration on April 22 (Earth Day!).

While the school typically celebrates the National Walk and Roll to School Day in October, they had to get a little creative because of the Dietz Stadium renovations. Working with the City of Kingston’s Parks & Recreation Department and the Kingston Police Department, the event starting location moved to Forsyth Park in April.

Students were buzzing with excitement as they gathered at the park on a crisp, sunny morning. One student even sported a metal trash grabber and trash bag to clean up as they went! Walk to School days are a great way to instill values of community and physical activity in children, all while having so much fun! This event helped raise awareness of the importance of issues such as increasing physical activity among children, pedestrian safety, reducing traffic congestion, and environmental concerns.

Want To Learn More? Contact:

Ninette Warner MS, RDN

School Coordinator, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County



This work is made possible by the New York State Department of Health’s Creating Healthy Schools and Communities grant received by the City of Kingston.  The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the State.

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