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Arlington Students Use ‘Walking School Bus’ on First Day of Classes

Elementary school students got moving and learned about pedestrian safety on the first day of school in Arlington Tuesday morning.

With a police escort, families walked from Fort Barnard Park to Drew Model Elementary School in Nauck as part of a joint pedestrian and cyclist safety initiative by Arlington Public Schools and the Arlington County Police Department.

The new program encourages families to create healthy habits and discuss how to stay safe, Arlington Superintendent Dr. Pat Murphy said.

“The message is safety for students both coming from and going to school,” Murphy said before families strolled in the post-Labor Day heat.

Keeping kids safe on streets using “the 3 ‘E’s” of engineering, education and traffic law enforcement are a top priority of the county, added Larry Marcus, Arlington’s transportation, engineering and operations bureau chief.

As she walked her 3-year-old son Kanoa to his first day of Montessori school, lifelong Nauck resident Jaque Tuck, 30, said she wanted to teach her child healthy habits.

“On his very first day, we wanted to let him know everything is okay and to give him some exercise,” the child protective services employee said alongside her husband, real estate agent Karl Tuck.

Julia Stewart, a substitute teacher at the school, said she opted to walk her 11-year-old son Braden and 7-year-old son Tristan to class as a way to build community.

“I wanted to meet people who live in the neighborhood and go to school with us,” Stewart said. “You make it kind of a walking bus.”

Arlington families were notified about a month ago if they lived in a “bus zone” or a “walk zone” — and were encouraged to walk if possible, a department spokeswoman said.

Principal Darryl Evans encouraged Drew Elementary parents to walk their kids to school and supplement the two crossing guards who have posts near the school.

“We have a lot of children who walk in our community. It’s important that the adults help us out,” he said about school with 671 students enrolled this fall.

In a related pedestrian and cyclist safety campaign, some ACPD patrol cars now have rear stickers — with the words “PAL (Predictable, Alert, Lawful)” — that remind drivers, pedestrians and cyclists to share the road.

The release of the decals coincides with enforcement of the state law enacted July 1 requiring that drivers pass “at a reasonable speed” at least three feet from a cyclist they pass, according to a statement issued by the county.

ACPD stepped up high-visibility safety patrols around schools today for the beginning of the school year.

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