“The goal is to bring an awareness to students who want a healthy way to come to school, along with reducing the amount of cars that drop off students in the morning car rider line.”
Dalton Public Schools had four schools recognized by the Georgia Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Resource Center.
Every year, Georgia SRTS announces a list of schools that achieved bronze, silver and gold partner status. These levels are based on the school's ability to partner with Georgia SRTS to create safe routes to school for bikers and pedestrians in order to provide a healthier transportation alternative.
This year, Brookwood received gold status, Roan received silver status, and Blue Ridge and Westwood received bronze status.
At Westwood, Laurie King facilitates the Safe Routes to School program. She said they host an event, Walk to School Wednesday, six times every year.
"On average, about 120 students and 15 staff members participate each time," King said. "We walk from the Creative Arts Guild to Westwood with a police escort. Students carry signs and walk with their grade levels. It's a great way to start the school day. I've even had kids tell me that they wish we could walk to school every day!"
Coach Paul Weaver oversees campus health and wellness at Brookwood. Weaver said he has been working with Georgia SRTS since his first year of teaching because of his. then principal, Will Esters.
"He was working on trying to make the area safer for students who wanted to walk to Brookwood, since Brookwood is a neighborhood school," Weaver said.
Weaver works closely with Georgia SRTS to help families walk to school in a safe environment. He said he sets up "Walk to School" days where families of Brookwood have the opportunity to join with other families and walk to school safely.
"Since there are no sidewalks around Brookwood school we use a police escort and meet at a central location and walk as a large group," Weaver said. "The goal is to bring an awareness to students who want a healthy way to come to school, along with reducing the amount of cars that drop off students in the morning car rider line."
Patti Pittman is the school outreach coordinator for the Safe Routes to School's North Georgia Region. She works closely with all of the schools to help them achieve gold, silver and bronze status.
"We're pleased to have six Dalton City Schools involved in our partnership program," Pittman said. "Brookwood reached Gold partner level this year by completing and implementing various steps that make walking and bicycling to school part of the school's transportation and health culture."
According to Weaver, achieving gold status is a huge achievement for Brookwood.
"It shows that Brookwood is committed in helping the students learn and take part in safe, healthy, alternative means of arriving at school," Weaver said. "We also are able to receive extra incentives for the 'Walk to School' days. The recognition for being a gold school shows that we care about our students."
At Roan, Wendy Houston coordinates the school's Safe Routes to School program. She said that the walk to school program is a bit hit at her school.
"Last year we had almost half of our student population, 197 children, along with several parents participate in our Fall International Walk to School Day," Houston said. "The Dalton Police Department has been very supportive and always provides extra support on these days. We always look forward to promoting GA Safe Routes to School days and utilize every opportunity to encourage our children to exercise and make healthy choices."