By Emily L. Hay Hinsdale, Palma Ceia resident and PCSS Co-Founder
It’s early morning on a school day. The sun is just up, the streets are still shadowed, the birds are singing, and it’s time for school. Here’s your choice: load the kids in the car and join the long carline of irritated parents running late... or walk to school!
The Palma Ceia Sidewalk Stompers, a neighborhood group of Roosevelt Elementary School parents, launched this past winter with the specific aim of supporting and encouraging neighborhood children walking to area schools.
“We’re getting ourselves and our kids out into the Palma Ceia community,” says co-founder Tim Scheu.
With the support of the Palma Ceia Neighborhood Association, the Sidewalk Stompers began their program with “Walk to School Wednesdays” at Roosevelt. Carrying signs homemade by Roosevelt students, the group greeted fellow walkers each Wednesday of the school year and also organized free monthly raffles; any students arriving by foot instead of by car were eligible to participate. During the 2015-16 school year, over 15 Roosevelt students won prizes donated by area businesses just for walking to school! Dough, Dancebox Studio, Starbucks, Mango Bay Trading Co. and the Roosevelt Dads Club showed their support for Roosevelt walkers by donating the prizes.
Here are the key reasons the Palma Ceia Sidewalk Stompers are showing up on foot at school:
- Safety in Numbers. More children (and their parents!) walking together makes them more visible to oncoming cars, especially at dangerous and unprotected crosswalks like the corners of Concordia and Bay to Bay or Obispo and Himes.
- Decreasing traffic around the school. If more children are getting to school on foot, that means fewer cars in the carline or parked on side streets.
- It's healthy! For the mind and the body. Morning exercise builds fit kids and helps them start their school day with focused and active minds.
- Be part of the community. Spending time with other children and parents walking to school together each morning, not to mention meeting other residents out for morning walks, builds relationships with neighbors that make where we live a warmer and safer environment.
Roosevelt is in the heart of Palma Ceia and easily walkable from most Palma Ceia homes, but the Sidewalk Stompers would love to see the Walk to School Wednesdays program grow to other schools in the area.
In the long term, the Sidewalk Stompers hope to increase the number of students walking to school. With greater pedestrian traffic, the group hopes to interest city and county officials in reducing pedestrian hazards in the neighborhood. For example, other schools in South Tampa have crossing guards; although Roosevelt’s administration has requested a crossing guard for morning and afternoon drop off/pick up many times, so far county officials have not provided this safety measure. Similarly, residents’ pleas for safer crosswalks at major intersections connecting Palma Ceia, such as Bay to Bay and Himes crossings, have gone unanswered.
“We’re working to increase sensitivity to, and accountability for, the (preventable!) hazards walkers face on a daily basis,” says Scheu.
The Palma Ceia Sidewalk Stompers will be walking in the 2016-17 school year and the first Walk to School Wednesday raffle will be held in August. Have a student at Roosevelt? Walk to school any Wednesday this coming school year and your child will be eligible for the next Palma Ceia Sidewalk Stompers raffle!
(This article was originally featured in the August, 2016 issue of Palma Ceia Living.)