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Students, parents take part in Walk to School Day
Centennial Arts Academy assistant principal says focus is getting kids active
Centennial Arts Academy students and parents walk along the trail through Ivey Terrace Park Thursday morning on their way from Rock Creek Park to the school.

It's called Walk to School Day, but for some, it was more of a run.

As Centennial Arts Academy Assistant Principal Leslie Frierson started the annual event Thursday, a group of students took off at a sprint down the Rock Creek Greenway.

"It's nice to get out and enjoy the fresh air, get the boys ready for school, get the blood pumping a bit," said Brian Mavity as he walked with his sons, Peyton, 11, and Regan, 10.

This is the second year Centennial has held a Walk to School Day in partnership with the City of Gainesville Parks and Recreation department.

The event started at 7 a.m., giving even the stragglers enough time to get to class by the 7:35 a.m. bell.

"We're wanting to do as much as we can just to promote a more green way of living, get the kids more active," Frierson said. "We're focusing on health issues and just trying to find every way that the children can get some more exercise and some activity."

Frierson said a lot of Centennial students live within walking distance to school, but few take advantage of it.

"I just think we're not conditioned to think that way," she said. "We're very dependent on our cars and the bus system. It's just not something that most families think about."

Superintendent Merriane Dyer said the school system has been working with recently received grant money to build the sidewalk infrastructure around New Holland Core Knowledge Academy and Gainesville Middle School in hopes of making it easier for parents to walk their children to school.

She said improving sidewalks around schools will continue to be a focus.

"With the overall emphasis on fitness and exercise and ways that families can exercise as part of their daily routine, plus the cost of gasoline, it seems to be something that families might look at," she said.

The group Thursday morning gathered at Rock Creek Park where Taylor Davis, Gainesville's recreation program coordinator, led the kids in a set of stretches.

"You're going to stretch to the middle and touch the ground," he said as kids scattered over the park's amphitheater mimicked his motions.

As they started the walk, Anslee Wilson fell to the back of the pack with her daughter Ella, 7, and son Miller, 5.

"We're bringing up the caboose," Ella said, reaching for her mom's hand.

Her mother said the family participated in the event last year and she was happy to see a larger group turn out this year.

"This is a great little thing to do," she said.

"I would do it more often if we weren't so rushed in the morning. I think it's a great idea."

In all, about 75 kids, accompanied by parents and a handful of dogs, showed up for the morning stroll.

Some kids walked with a parent on each arm while younger brothers and sisters were pushed in strollers or trotted along, dragging stuffed animals at their sides.

One father was an especially good sport as he escorted his daughter to school.

She skipped down the path. He carried her pink backpack over his shoulder, a matching pink lunch box in hand.