Champion Moment – The “Walk & Roll” Parents of Symonds School, Keene
Two-thirds of parents who live within ¼ of a mile from Keene schools drive their kids to school every day. The reason parents pile their children into their car and drive the short distance is because parents are concerned about traffic and the safety of their kids, according a survey done by a local committee.
But there are several programs in the city’s school district that encourage schoolchildren to walk to school. One program, “Walk & Roll” at Symonds School, is helping more schoolchildren walk (or bike) to school safely. The program was started seven years ago by concerned parents with the help of school administrators and Beth Corwin, Symonds’ physical education teacher.
Once a week throughout the fall and spring the bus drops kids oﬀ ¼ mile away from school (at Yankee Lanes on Park Avenue) and students and volunteer parents walk to school together. Keene’s Franklin School and Jonathan Daniels School also participate in Walk & Roll days.
“I love to walk,” says Catherine Koning, one Symonds School Walk & Roll parent volunteer, and mother of a Symonds School third grader. “I love the outdoors, and I think it is important to get kids outside as much as possible. They enjoy seeing the houses, trees, dogs, water on the sidewalk — everything — and even that little bit of nature expands their world.”
Jen English, a parent volunteer who lives close to the school, says the Walk & Rolls days are special for her two kids even though they walk to and from school together every day. “It makes it exciting for my kids to meet up with kids who are only able to walk on Walk & Roll days,” says Jen. The social aspect of the walks, she says, “becomes a great community-builder.”
Another Walk & Roll volunteer, Leslie Percival, worked at Symonds School as a special education tutor for 11 years. Leslie decided to volunteer because, she says, “I wanted to help out the school and it was a chance for me to add some activity to my day in a fun way.”
She also wanted to be part of a program that helps kids arrive at school after having some physical activity so that they can be ready to sit and learn.
“There is lots of evidence that activity fires up the brain and this is a fun way to get to school!” says Leslie.
While the Walk & Rolls program has become more popular over the years, the volunteers note that they would like to do it more often. That would require the help of more volunteers.
“You don’t have to be a parent to help out,” notes Catherine. “I see lots of people walking in the morning who could perhaps walk with us once a week!”
Catherine points out that while it may be hard for parents to get their children up a little earlier to walk, she’d like to see more kids participate. This could be made easier with more walking stops along the way, she notes.
“Perhaps there could be a second stop along Park Ave, for the people who live in between Yankee Lanes and Symonds,” says Catherine. “This would save them time and they could just join up with the Yankee Lanes group as they go by.”