Fourth and fifth graders set off to school Wednesday morning as part of national Bike and Walk to School Day. Over 50 Coupeville Elementary School students participated in the first annual event. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News Times

Fourth and fifth graders set off to school Wednesday morning as part of national Bike and Walk to School Day. Over 50 Coupeville Elementary School students participated in the first annual event. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News Times

Students hit the road for a day

The morning commute to school was a little more exciting for a group of Coupeville Elementary School students Wednesday morning.

More than 50 fourth and fifth graders put rubber to the road, while others opted to walk, as part of the National Bike or Walk to School Day.

The first annual event was started by the National Center for Safe Routes to School, but the local event was organized by leadership students at the elementary school.

“It’s going really well, I Just can’t wait until everyone starts riding,” fifth-grader Gabriella Gebhard, a leadership student who helped put the event together, said as the students gathered in Town Park. “It’s just going to be really fun.”

Fourth-grade teacher and leadership club adviser Jon Gabelein said students organized everything from the site planning to contacting local organizations like Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue, WhidbeyHealth EMS and the Coupeville Marshal’s Office to help with the event.

“It’s a good event planning opportunity,” he said. “Instead of just being a guest, they were the ones putting it on.”

Around 7:30 a.m., music was playing, snacks provided by Prairie Center Red Apple were handed out and members of the Whidbey Island Bike Club performed safety checks on everyone’s bikes before the students set off. Fourth-grade leadership student Teagan Calkins served as the master of ceremonies and paramedic Robert May gave a presentation about bike safety.

“If you want to have fun, you have to be safe,” he reminded the crowd of students. “Because kids that are being safe don’t get hurt, and if you’re hurt, you’re not having fun.”

The fire district provided an escort for the students as they paraded down Broadway toward the school.

Only fourth and fifth graders were invited to participate in the event, Gabelein said, but he said it was the talk of the school the rest of the day.

“It was an opportunity for the students to be physically active, but it was also a fun opportunity for them to bike and walk to school with a bunch of friends,” he said.

The group hopes to make this an annual event. Parents and staff from Island County Public Health also volunteered, and Gabelein said he received positive feedback from everyone involved.

“I appreciate everybody’s help in bringing the event together,” he said. “I think it was a top notch event.”

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