LONGMEADOW, Mass. (WWLP) – October 4 is International Walk to School Day.
It’s not something you see every day…unless, of course, you live in Longmeadow.
“It’s a reflection of the closeness of the community,” said Longmeadow Public Schools Superintendent Marty O’Shea, “It’s a walkable town. It’s got great infrastructure. There’s sidewalks and so we are able to host many walkers and bikers today. And any given day, we have hundreds and hundreds of students arrive by bike and foot.”
In fact, the town only has four school buses. About 60 percent of elementary school students get to school by walking or biking.
The school system’s three elementary schools participated in International Walk to School Day in a partnership with MassDOT’s Safe Routes to School program. It helps raise awareness of walking and biking safety. It’s something Longmeadow Police Sergeant Carl Mazzaferro said is important in their town because while the streets are walkable, the town is a cut-through community connecting Springfield to Connecticut. He said people will drive fast or cut through side roads to beat traffic. That can be a danger to children on the roads.
“A lot of kids are very independent here and a lot of kids walk and bike to school,” said one Center Elementary School student.
Sergeant Mazzaferro said while some towns have many buses, Longmeadow instead pays for 23 crossing guards. As much as this day was about safety when students are biking and walking to school, it was also about fostering a strong relationship between the police officers and the students.
“The residents that currently have gone through our school system, they remember our DARE officers, they remember our safety officers, and they ask all the time about how they’re doing and those are the people they remember, so it’s important that they remember us as they get older and that we’re here to help them and keep them safe,” said Sergeant Mazzaferro.