June 24th, 2019

macarthur walk to school dayMacArthur youngsters prepare to head out on the walking route to Oliver Brown Park as part of Walk to School Day. Courtesy photoROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times


Many students walk to and from school, and Wednesday, youngsters at Liberal’s MacArthur Elementary learned rules and safe routes for walking safely to and from school.

The school joined the celebration for “Walk to School Day” and enjoyed taking part in the “Walking School Bus.”

Walking school buses are groups of children who walk designated routes to school under adult supervision, and some pick up kids along the way just like a bus, while others have a central meeting point from each everyone walks together.

For some neighborhoods, it’s a casual group walk, whereas others set up a formal plan with adults to walk on certain days.

The MacArthur Walking School Bus was safe, fun and successful for all. The local school was one of more than 5,000 registered nationwide for Walk to School Day, with 69 of those in Kansas. MacArthur was the only Liberal school taking part in the event.

MacArthur P.E. Coach Raven Ayers, who coordinated the event, said she liked what she saw from her students.

“I think it was a fun, successful and great educational opportunity for MacArthur students,” she said.

Ayers said about 430 students took part in Wednesday’s event, and she believes all of them got something out of it other than the lessons of safety while walking.

“I think each student got out of it fun,” she said. “I hope they got out of it, along the educational opportunity line, realizing it’s better for environment, it’s better for bodies, and it’s an opportunity to walk and talk with family and friends and not be distracted so much as you are in a vehicle with the Game Boys and the parents are driving and focused on the roads. It’s more of a ‘me and you’ focused time.”

Ayers said Wednesday’s Walk to School Day at MacArthur was an introduction for the community to the event.

“Liberal has not been a part of the Walk to School Day,” she said. “They have combined it. The two have two separate road rules. I wanted to emphasize the importance of safe routes to school and kind of start the change, getting it in progress.”

As part of the registration process, Ayers said schools get many things.

“You get events,” she said. “You get lesson plans. There’s all kinds of extras that you can bring to your schools. They have ideas how to plan. They guide you through this. They make you knowledgeable. Knowledge is power, and that’s kind of what we want to do for our students. Make them knowledgeable in safe routes for school. Therefore, they become powerful and hopefully very safe.”

Before students took to the streets to walk to and from nearby Oliver Brown Park, Ayers spoke to them about the importance of what they were about to do, pointing particularly to the importance of having sidewalks in Liberal. She said she wants to see sidewalks not only near MacArthur but the rest of the community as well.

“We have sidewalks that come to an end where minor repairs need to be taking place if we could start with that,” she said. “I know growth and change takes time, especially when it comes to getting these sidewalks in, but we also have to remember how important our students are and them getting to schools safe. I’m super excited to be in Liberal, and I think it’s a beautiful community. Just with people coming here as I have as a new teacher, you see areas, you come up with ideas and hope you can come together with the community such as the Coalition for Families, the Baughman Foundation, working with the city itself in regards to Parks and Recreation since I am P.E. coach.”

Ayers said she has a goal of bringing Walk to School Day to all Liberal schools, and Wednesday was simply a start towards that goal.

“We had to pilot this program somewhere,” she said. “I think at MacArthur, this was a start, and we’re going to continue to work towards making sure that students have safe routes to school and they can walk to school, whether it be an older student or younger student with an adult. A safe route is very important, and that’s where sidewalks come in. Sidewalks do not have to be on both sides of the road.”

Ayers likewise hopes Liberal schools can join in the effort of separating Walk to School Day and Bike to School Day due to the separate set of road rules for each mode of transportation.

“This is the way we are able to educate our students and make them knowledgeable and safe,” she said. “To have students walking with bicycles is not safe. My goal is to make these two separate entities and educate Liberal and get all the kids on the same page.”

Despite Wednesday’s cold weather, Ayers said MacArthur students loved taking part in Walk to School Day as much as she did.

“They absolutely loved it,” she said. “My kindergartners ended the day with chants of ‘Two by Two,’ ‘Hut Two Three Four’ and ‘We Are We Are Kindergartners.’ It was a blast. It was about six hours of walking today for myself and my colleagues who were very helpful and much appreciated. I’m exhausted, but it was absolutely worth it. I’m so excited to see the growth and what comes to our schools in regards to Walk to School Day in the future.”

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