Students pedaled, walked, skated to Oregon schools through joint effort

Kids rode  their bikes  to school at the Oregon School District's Bike & Roll Day on Wednesday, May 8, 2024. The event was made possible through a joint effort by the school district and the Oregon police and fire departments.

OREGON – They came on their bikes, their skates and their own two feet Wednesday morning as part of the Oregon School District’s first “Bike & Roll Day.”

The event, in collaboration with the city of Oregon, Oregon Police Department and the Oregon Fire Department, was aimed at promoting physical activity among students and staff by encouraging them to bike, walk or skate to school.

Auston Kerce, 7, cruised into the Blackhawk Center parking lot on his decked out Spider-man bike, complete with decorated red webs on each fender.

“My grandpa and grandma got it for me,” he said excitedly before heading to a table to grab a free doughnut. “I just learned how to ride it without my training wheels.”

Right behind Auston was Makala Tsusaki, 10, who rolled in on her skates. Makala said it was not unusual for her to arrive at school on her “blades.” “Oh yeah, I do it, like, every day,” she said.

Students were greeted by school administrators and Oregon police and fire officials. Firefighters marked the gathering area by positioning their large ladder truck in front of the center’s main entrance and then raising the American flag high above the school campus.

Ryan Huels, principal of Oregon Elementary School, even jumped on a tiny pink scooter to personally escort some students into the staging area.

“He was just waiting for an excuse to get out and ride,” quipped one of the officers.

Heidi Deininger, principal of Oregon High School, said Wednesday’s event served two purposes.

“This is a two-fold effort today – one is activity. We want to encourage students and staff to ride their bikes or walk just to get their blood flowing this morning, but secondly, environmentally to ease up on the cars, gasoline and pollutants in the environment,” she said.

A steady stream of students buzzed into the parking lot on Hawk Drive between the junior/senior high school and Oregon Elementary to snare a free doughnut and visit with police officers and firefighters.

“We really promoted it just to get everyone to come together toward the end of the school year and to celebrate the beautiful weather,” Deininger said. “It’s important for the students to understand just how pollutants affect the environment. Oregon is a pretty small town, and we can certainly walk to school and ride our bikes and enjoy the small safe community that we have.”

Deininger hopes the day’s effort will continue to gain momentum in the community and motivate others to get out and enjoy the natural parks and recreational areas.

“I think by students embracing it kind of spreads to their parents and grandparents. I really feel in our schools we do a good job of helping students to understand how important it is to take care of the environment and look after it,” she said. “We just have a really gorgeous community; it is really important for our kids to understand what we have to do to make sure it stays that way.”

In September 2023, City Administrator Darin DeHaan announced an effort to receive a “Safe Routes to School Grant” from the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The Safe Routes to Schools Grant program is a bi-annual funding opportunity administered by IDOT. The program funds infrastructure projects that improve conditions for walking and biking within 2 miles of an elementary, middle or high school.

DeHaan said the grant would cover 100% of the estimated project cost if awarded.

Earleen Hinton

Earleen Hinton

Earleen creates content and oversees production of 8 community weeklies. She has worked for Shaw Newspapers since 1985.