CERES -- A glowering sky and overnight rain sent more parents than usual motoring to Adkison Elementary on Walk to School Day. But others donned coats, pulled on stroller covers and braved the muddy puddles.
All this week, Ceres Unified is having Walk to School Days, part of a grant-supported push for safer streets and healthier lifestyles. The events, one day at each of five schools, include family breakfasts and health checks, and high-energy assemblies on bike and pedestrian safety.
Carolina Macias strolls with her toddler and two grade school children to the campus, rain or shine, she said. They talk about the color of the trees, shapes of the clouds just stuff, she said.
For Maria Benitaz, it's time well spent with her kids in sixth, fourth and third grades. "We talk a lot usually it's what we do," Benitaz said.
Mandy Kaur lives close to the school and says it's faster to walk than to navigate the school parking lot at drop-off time. "It's good to walk. It's quiet in the morning," she said.
Kaur's daughter, fifth-grader Diksha Sohal, said she likes the walk but wishes her glasses came with windshield wipers.
Walking to school gives Elisa Enriquez time to work on spelling words with her 6-year-old daughter, Raquel. Plus, it's healthier. "It's a good start for the day, I think," she said.
Tuesday, Enriquez walked with the Walk to School Day group meeting at Stonum and Nadine, just one house away from the school. But that one property has no sidewalk and a not-so-neighborly fence confining pedestrians to a narrow strip of dirt along the road.
Strictly speaking, Ceres police Sgt. Chris Perry said, pedestrians should cross the road, walk on the sidewalk to the end of the block, then cross back, rather than dodge cars and puddles along the bare dirt portion.
Parent Norma Rodriguez said walking may be good for the environment, but she lives across busy Hatch Road. She drives her son and nephew to school each day because it's safer, she said.
Adkison Principal Brian Murphy estimates that about 40 percent of his students walk to school each day, most along sidewalk-lined streets. But his area includes county islands with no sidewalks, as well.
"Then it becomes potholes, dirt and mud," he said.
Adkison has no regular school bus routes. Ceres Unified focuses on neighborhood schools, working to keep all elementary students within walking distance of their campuses, said Lourdes Perez, a Ceres school board member and one of the organizers of Walk to School Days.
Perez said the district has a three-year contract with the U.S. Department of Transportation to make these walkable routes to school safer.
The grant will cover planned striping and flashing crosswalk lighting on Central Avenue from Caswell Elementary to Ceres High. That grant and funds to combat obesity covered the Walk to School Day activities, too.
"We want (students) to be healthy, have an active lifestyle, and we want them to be safe," Perez said.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2339.