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Switching the bus for a sidewalk | Hundreds of Connecticut students walk to school

The one-day event promotes more opportunities for students to safely walk to class.

ELLINGTON, Conn. — At least 19 schools across Connecticut signed up to take part in National Walk to School Day.

At Center School in Ellington, more than 100 students and some parents took a stroll from Maple St. to the classroom to start their day.

It's all to promote health and wellness, spreading safety messages for pedestrians near schools along the way.

Last year, Center School and many others couldn't participate because of the pandemic. This year, they went all out.

"For kids to be here and for you to see a really large crowd means that A.) they really enjoy it and B.) it’s meaningful for them to be part of a school climate and culture that wants to be sort of a family," said Michael Verderame, the principal at Center School.

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Families were invited to meet the kids at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for drop-off. Parents could also get out of theirs cars, and come along for the walk. The students met up with their teachers in the parking lot and walked in a single-file line about a mile down the road to get to class. State and Ellington Police helped stop traffic along the way.

"I think it’s just getting out in nature a little bit and being able to explore our town, and make friends along the way," said Mystica Schaub, a parent at Center School.

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Other parents joining in on the fun, too.

"I wouldn’t miss it. It's such an important community event and it’s important for me to be there for my daughter as well," said Melissa Haberern, a parent at Center School and a special education supervisor for Ellington Public Schools.

Some parents said they wish their kids could walk to school more often, but most live far away and there's a lack of sidewalks on the route.

“We don’t have sidewalks that go directly to center school other than this one route that we’re taking today. Most students either ride a bus or parents have to drop them off," said Verderame.

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National Walk to School Day works to promote more opportunities for students to safely walk to class. On its website, the organization said this one-day event has sparked changes like long-term walking and biking programs, new sidewalks and pathways, and policy changes at schools and in communities.

"This is really exciting because the majority of them don’t get to do this really often and so we want to bring attention and awareness to the importance of it," Verderame said.

Julia LeBlanc is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at jleblanc@fox61.com Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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