cover-crosswalk.jpgSchoolchildren and local elected officials alike laced up their sneakers this morning and walked through San Francisco’s Mission District to celebrate Walk to School Day.

A group of about 40 students, parents, and teachers from Buena Vista Horace Mann school walked from Parque Ninos Unidos at 3090 23rd St. to their school at 3351 23rd St.

One parent, Erika McDonald, who walked with her kindergartner Amy, said most days she walks the four blocks to the school from the family’s home on Shotwell Street.

McDonald, a working mom, said the routine keeps her active in the mornings and afternoons, and pushes her to walk about a mile a day.

Buena Vista Horace Mann was one of 55 San Francisco public schools participating in walk-to-school events today. District officials said nearly 8,500 students would be taking part in the events, which highlighted pedestrian safety and the city’s “Safe Routes to School” program.

The children in the Mission District walk, led by parents wearing bright orange vests that read “Walking School Bus,” started the morning at Parque Ninos Unidos at 8:30 a.m. with a stretching and warm-up session.

Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg led students in a series of exercises in the grass, along with Supervisor David Campos, school board president Norman Yee and state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano.

The group then embarked on the six-block walk to their Spanish immersion school.

A police motorcycle officer accompanied them, blocking off traffic as they passed, and police Cmdr. Mikail Ali walked with the group, keeping an eye out for dangerous drivers or children too close to the sidewalk’s edge.

Ammiano walked with his daughter and three young grandchildren–some of whom attend Buena Vista Horace Mann.

When the group arrived at the school, a rally was held in the schoolyard. Campos made brief remarks in Spanish, urging students to stay active and keep walking.

Principal Jennifer Steiner described the benefits of walking, including keeping healthy and protecting the environment.

“Every day I walk to school from 16th Street, and I feel great when I get to school,” she said.

Steiner, switching to Spanish, announced plans to establish a weekly Wednesday walking group from Parque Ninos Unidos to Buena Vista Horace Mann, and encouraged students and parents to join in.

Gillian Gillett, transportation policy director with the mayor’s office, presented the school with a proclamation deeming today “Walk to School Day.”

The walking advocacy group Walk SF helped organize the Mission District event.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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