Walking to and from school “uphill both ways” is bygone sentiment. While 48 percent of children walked or biked to school in 1969, fewer than 15 percent do so today. Corl Street Elementary is an exception to this trend because 50 percent of its students walk or bike. Corl Street families and alumni cite positive social interaction, parent involvement, physical fitness and safety as benefits of a neighborhood school. While the community clearly values Corl Street Elementary, are the benefits of a neighborhood school real or anecdotal?
The Centers for Disease Control and the Safe Routes to School Partnership consider walkable schools a sound investment with positive returns on physical health, academic success and social capital. The National Institute of Medicine supports walking to school as an opportunity to combat childhood obesity. Students who walk to school average 24 additional minutes of activity daily. The journal Neuroscience demonstrated that after 20 minutes of walking, pre-adolescent children learned tasks more quickly and accurately and performed better on reading comprehension exams. A Danish study of 20,000 children aged 5 to 19 found that children who walked or biked to school had four hours of improved concentration relative to children transported by car, train or bus. Walkable neighborhoods anchored by a school build “social capital,” which, according to the American Journal of Public Health, results in engaged, safe communities.
Given the benefits of walkable neighborhood schools, SCASD should renovate (not repurpose) Corl Street Elementary. Further, SCASD should seek to improve pedestrian opportunities throughout the district.
Tracey Olexa, State College