SALEM — Groups of elementary students will be walking to school, en masse, tomorrow morning to mark Massachusetts Walk and Bike to School Day.
Youngsters from four of the city’s elementary schools — Bates, Bentley, Carlton and Saltonstall — will meet at organized points across the city and walk to school together between 7 and 8 a.m.
It’s meant to encourage walking, and the host of benefits it brings, from helping the environment to boosting school pride, said John Pelletier, who is organizing the effort out of Mayor Kim Driscoll’s office.
Kids who are active, and who walk or bike to school, have been shown to be more attentive and focused in school, he said.
Driscoll will be among the participants, walking with her two children to Saltonstall.
“Salem is known for being such a good walking city, yet the majority of our students do not walk to school (for various reasons),” Driscoll said. “... I have fond memories of walking to school, and this is a great way to re-create that.”
Tomorrow will be the first time that a citywide walk to school effort has been organized in Salem. Hopefully, it will grow and become an annual event, Pelletier said.
Pelletier is the city’s Mass in Motion program coordinator, a four-year, grant-funded position covered by Partners HealthCare.
While some Salem students walk to school already, this week’s walk is meant to encourage those who have never thought of walking to join their friends that do, Pelletier said.
Tomorrow’s walk will also establish safe routes to the four schools. The group walking to Carlton will use the city’s bike path for some of its route, Pelletier said.
“We’re hoping this is something we can build on,” Driscoll said. “We have such a great walking city, this could be something that really takes off here.”
Tomorrow, groups of students will rendezvous at the Common and Greenlawn Cemetery. Parents will chaperone the walkers, and police and crossing guards will be placed along their routes.
Pelletier has compiled a map, showing the route of each group, with timed checkpoints along the way. Families can join the walkers midroute, without meeting at the rendezvous point, he said.
Officially, Massachusetts Walk and Bike to School Day is the first Wednesday in May, but tomorrow fit better with Salem’s schedule, Pelletier said.
For more details and a link to the map of tomorrow’s walking routes, see www.facebook.com/MassInMotionSalem.