How to Walk to School movement gains traction here

Perhaps you’ve read How to Walk to School: Blueprint for a Neighborhood School Renaissance by Jacqueline Edelberg and Susan Kurland, or read about the book in the June issue of the Heights Observer, or Eleanor Mallet’s column in the July issue. Either way, you’re invited to join the local How to Walk to School movement that's gaining traction here.

Regardless of your connection to the schools, we want your input and assistance. Many community members are reading the book, or heard the author speak here in June, and are inspired to organize and act to uplift the youngest in our community, and thereby all of us.

I've been meeting and speaking with community residents and leaders these last few months. Doug Heuer, our school superintendent, is eager to collaborate with the community. In the coming weeks, I'll continue to spread the word at various community meetings and venues.

Now is the time for parents, teachers, principals and others to compile wish lists and brainstorm ideas for the schools. It’s time to create a community resource list that includes people or businesses with skills or materials to contribute. Next we can match up these resources and the needs of our schools, and get to work on a creative and productive process of embracing the schools. While we're at it, let's formulate a list of all the positive programs, activities and stories already happening in our schools. I know there are many.

Our challenges are different from those of the Chicago school (Edelberg and Kurland wrote about). Their process, however, can inspire us to see that anything is possible here. I envision groups of people inspired by their concerns, passions or dreams for the school and community, organizing into committees to work with the school administration to prioritize and act. We may tackle a few positive initiatives this year and others the next. But let’s start somewhere.

Already, there are parents wanting to improve the nutritional value of the food schools serve. Others want to implement safe routes so that more children can bicycle and walk safely to school. This alone could have many positive outcomes by fostering health through exercise, more effective learning from the benefits of exercise, and greater community feeling as more residents escort children to school.

Let's begin to think outside the box and bring the rich social and intellectual capital of our community to this endeavor. You can support the district’s efforts by conveying positive stories and critical messages to the community.

You can share your ideas and offer your resources by contacting me at or 216-371-3753. Please provide me with your contact information. Also, let me know if you are able to create and maintain a Facebook page for our growing movement.

Joan Spoerl is a Cleveland Heights resident and early childhood consultant with over 13 years of combined experience teaching kindergarten, Head Start, preschool and college.

Joan Spoerl

I am an early childhood consultant and an independent consultant for Usborne Books & More, with over 13 years of combined experience teaching kindergarten, Head Start, preschool and college mostly in the Chicago area. Now I'm a proud resident of Cleveland Heights.

Read More on Opinion
Volume 3, Issue 9, Posted 10:33 AM, 08.18.2010