On the path to the past: Kids walking to school | TheUnion.com

On the path to the past: Kids walking to school

Some western Nevada County parents are literally walking the extra half-mile to get their children to school these days, thanks to a collaborative effort between the Chicago Park School Parent Club and local business people.

Parents and children are walking and bonding on a stretch of bike trail six-tenths of a mile long that starts at Mt. Olive Road and Highway 174. A parking lot has been built at the busy corner where parents can leave their vehicles.

The Park and Walk lot will be dedicated at 8 a.m. Friday with a walk to the school, where more ceremonies will commence at 8:20 a.m., Superintendent/Principal Dan Zeisler said.

Parent Russell Whitney dreamed up the idea, which Zeisler fully endorses.

“It’s turned into a social thing. All the kids gather at 8 a.m., and they walk to school together,” Zeisler said. “We encourage the parents to walk with their kids to get their exercise, too.”

“There were some parents informally walking (last school year), and it was a bit dangerous,” Whitney said. There was just a small, roadside parking area and no path along Mt. Olive Road crossing Lower Colfax Road, which has been built as part of the project.

“We had the bike path here since the ’60s and we thought about the benefits of walking, fitness and exercise, saving gas, family time and less congestion around the school,” Whitney said.

“Now we meet neighbors and other parents, and it’s a nice warmup for going to school,” Whitney said. “This morning, there were four really small kids ahead of us and a whole herd of deer jumped over a fence and started running in front of them.”

After talking to the Parent Club last school year, Whitney approached parcel owner Dan Sciacca, who liked the idea and allowed the parking lot to be built. Whitney then went to Dave Jefferis of Dave Jefferis Excavation, who graded and prepared the parking lot for free. In turn, Jefferis got Hansen Brothers Enterprises to donate the gravel, Whitney said.

Jefferis also extended the paving of the path. Over the summer, Whitney and son Marshall Whitney erected the Park and Walk sign at the lot.

Now, Caltrans is willing to realign the crosswalk over Highway 174 to line up with the new parking lot, Whitney said.

“This works right with our health and wellness policy that’s three years old now,” Zeisler said. “We encourage our students to be active, but this also promotes health and wellness through family activity.

“It brings forth a sense of community for kids and parents to be walking together,” Zeisler said. “It provides some morning bonding time instead of just dropping the kids off and saying ‘Have a nice day.’

“It’s an example of Chicago Park School being a community resource,” Zeisler said. “We know we educate kids, but we want to do more.”

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com or call 477-4237.

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