In an attempt to get students to ditch the car and engage in healthier ways of getting to school - walking or riding a bicycle -- La Rosa Elementary School hosted a Thursday morning event coinciding with the National Bike to School Day.
Students were encouraged to ride bikes or walk to school with their families or classmates.
"We're trying to promote healthy lifestyles," said Lori Mariani, principal of La Rosa Elementary School.
The event is part of an educational component of a three-year federal grant in the Safe Route to Schools program.
"The purposes include increase healthy lifestyles, get kids moving, lower childhood obesity, get them active but insure that it's safe for them to do that."
The event stressed ways students can bicycle safely to the campus just south of Whitmore Avenue. Representatives from Memorial Medical Center were on hand to talk about health, and the trauma center told students what kinds of serious head injuries can happen to riders who don't wear helmets. Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children officials made a presentation on how to correctly place on helmets.
A health fair with health screenings was also offered as well as free breakfasts and snacks for students and their families. Dancing to music played by disc jockey was offered. Students also had a chance to win prizes of bike helmets and backpacks.
Mariani said some staff members rode to work from five to 10 miles away, including Hughson.
Part of the grant process includes collecting data on how many students ride to school in cars or busses, and to get an increased number to walk or bicycle. A key component is looking at ways to make their routes safer, whether it be to add turn signals, crossing guards or sidewalks.
La Rosa has some safety issues associated with the path to school. While most kids come from the Eastgate neighborhood to the north, they must pass through the busy intersection of Whitmore Avenue Eastgate Boulevard.
Another issue is the lack of a sidewalk on the south side of Whitmore Avenue which is the straightest path from Casa Grande Apartments to the school. To keep students from walking across public right of way or private property, the district blocks their path and directs them back to the Mitchell/Whitmore intersection where there a crossing guard is posted. Mariani said that initially a lot of grumbling occurred since it makes the walk to school longer but that students are now used to the routine.
City officials would like to see a sidewalk installed but say it's in county jurisdiction and that the county must be involved in the solution. Grant funding may be available.
On October 25 La Rosa held a walk to school promotion.