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Walking to school promoted by Lucas Elementary
• Students, parents observe International Walk to School Day
Students attending Lucas Dual Language Academy in Ceres celebrated the National Walk to School Day by, what else, walking to school. They started at Roeding Heights Park. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Students attending Lucas Elementary School – better known as Lucas Dual Language Academy – were encouraged to ditch the family vehicle and opt to become pedestrians on Wednesday, to observe International Walk to School Day.

The event began in 1997 as a one-day event. Over time, this event has become part of a movement for year-round safe routes to school and a celebration – with record breaking participation – each October. Today, thousands of schools across America – from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico – participate every October.

“This is the first time that we’ve ever done this,” said Brandy Nowaya, president of the Lucas Parent Teacher Club (PTC) who organized the event. Her group thought it would be nice to gather as many students with their parents and walk from Roeding Heights Park to the campus a few blocks away.

“It gets them out for a little bit of exercise in the morning,” said Nowaya. “We just thought it would be something fun to get the parents and kids together to all do something.”

Nowaya said most parents are in the habit of driving their children to school out of fear for their safety. But she remembers always walking to school by herself and her parents never worrying.

“Nowadays you never know what’s going to happen,” said Nowaya. “It stinks that we have to worry so much about our kids.”

Her kids marvel at times that their fellow classmates are walking to school. She likes hearing that statistically children are relatively safe on their route to school.

Ceres Police Officer Dirk Nieuwenhuis suggested that it is kids on bikes, not pedestrians, that “are a way bigger problem.”

“The thing is they need to walk together with another student,” said Officer Miguel Villalobos

Walking to school might be a little difficult for some at Lucas given that the academy doesn’t have a typical attendance boundary and draws students from all over Ceres. Nowaya noted that this is the first year that the school that is a full preschool to sixth grade school. Lucas started at with just kindergarten and first grade.

“We really like it,” she said of the school.

Joining in the walk were two Ceres Police officers who provided an escort as well as a dad who is a California Highway Patrol officer.