by Liz Duda
Tega Cay, SC (Oct. 26, 2018) – Tega Cay Elementary School (TCES) joined 160 South Carolina schools to celebrate International Walk to School Day on Friday, October 12. TCES embraced it as a community event. It also drastically reduced the long carlines the school has had this year, given the enrollment rise from about 750 students last year to over 1,000 now. How successful was it? Most TCES students and families walked or biked, the carline was minimal, and community support abounded. Many hope this tradition can continue, perhaps via Family Friday Bike/Walk to School.
The Tega Cay Police Department held its immensely popular Coffee with a Cop in the Living Memorial Gardens. Local dignitaries including city council members, Fort Mill School District board members and candidates and Tega Cay firefighters greeted and congratulated the students. Community volunteers including Tega Cay Trails, Ben Ullman, distributed pedestrian and biker safety information. Police officers supported crosswalk safety along the route. The parent-teacher organization and Burn Boot Camp volunteers distributed bracelets and cheered the participants. And the Tega Cay Police Department brought their lessons into the school gym class: “Officer [Robert] Burns did a fantastic job teaching our 1st graders about safe walk/bike to school habits,” commented TCES PE teacher, Christy Scott.
TCES has participated in this event since the school’s 2014 inception. The new administration, Principal Brigitte Wagner and Assistant Principals Tripp Hartley and Lisa Lucas, were excited to support safe biking and walking to school. Asst. Principal Hartley noted, “We hope that this event helped families realize that they can walk and bike to TCES on a regular basis. Parents hopefully used this event to discuss pedestrian safety with their children including stopping at the crosswalk, looking both ways, making eye contact with the driver before crossing and staying alert while crossing.”
TCES is fortunate to have walking paths and sidewalks leading to the school. S.C. schools without safe pedestrian access hosted “walk-at-school” events. The S.C. Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Resource Center, which previously championed these events through regional coordinators, closed on December 31, 2017, due to funding limitations. But S.C. Department of Transportation SRTS State Coordinator, Rodney Oldham, still supports the SRTS program across S.C. He appreciates the “school partnering with the local community to support safe walking and bicycling routes for children.” Walk-to-school events work to create safer routes for walking and bicycling and emphasize the importance of increasing physical activity among children, pedestrian safety, traffic congestion, concern for the environment and building connections between families, schools and the broader community.
The TCES event was organized by the school wellness committee (Healthy Titans), parent-teacher organization (PTO), physical education (PE) teachers, and school administration, in partnership with the City of Tega Cay. The Healthy Titans mission is to work with students, parents, teachers, administrators and the related community to help educate and encourage healthy behaviors in an attempt to foster the healthiest learning environment possible for TCES students.