Stanhope embraces Walk to School Day Plus an outdoor classroom, and mums!
Students board the “bus” at Walk to School Day. From left, Daniella Ciampa, Justin Jenkins, Stephen Moodie, Jack Kopich and Cameron Kopich
Phiotos provided by Valley School
By Laurie Gordon STANHOPE — “I like walking to school because it's more fun... you get to walk and talk with your friends.” These are the words of Joel Berkowicz, a fifth grader at Stanhope's Valley Road School. On October 4, which dawned a chilly, 46-degree morning, he joined dozens of students gathered at various designated “meet-up” locations throughout the borough along with parents and chaperones to walk to his school in celebration of International Walk and Bike to School Day. The event was sponsored by TransOptions, which promotes Safe Routes to School education programs throughout New Jersey and was a big success. Students and parents arrived at the school to be greeted by a representative of the organization, Justin Jenkins, and receive snacks from Allison Andrews provided by the Stanhope Home and School Association. This is the sixth time Valley Road School has participated in the semi-annual event since 2014. Superintendent Tim Nicinski said, "Walk to School Day binds the community together for good health and safety. It teaches the life lesson that working together benefits the individual as well as the community." As a result of the school’s ongoing involvement in Safe Routes programs in the community, Stanhope School District has been awarded with the Silver Level Recognition for New Jersey Safe Routes to School which honors the commitment and support of the program by encouraging children to walk and bicycle to school. October 4 was also a perfect day for the Stanhope Home and School Association (HSA) to distribute beautiful Fall mums outside the school as part of their annual fundraiser. Another way that students and staff are enjoying the weather this fall is by using the newly created outdoor Courtyard Classroom and Learning Sanctuary. At the beginning of the school year, Valley Road School “unveiled’ this shared space for use by all students Pre-K through 8. The creation of this classroom was a community effort, led by the Stanhope Home and School Association board and membership. Many of the teachers have already taken their students outside to enjoy reading and other learning activities in this beautiful environment, located in the courtyard of the school building. The HSA expressed special gratitude to Jimmy Fluke of Peterson and Son's Tree Services for the custom crafted hardwood natural log benches and to Sunnyside Landscaping for the blue stone patio and mulched plantings. The Stanhope Board of Education and Stanhope School Administration supported and coordinated the effort, with special thanks to the Balogh, Palermo and Ramirez families for bench assembly, sanding and staining. Of walk to school and enjoying the outdoors, Berkowicz said, “" You can notice nature more when you walk than when you drive. I think it's important to have Walk to School Day because it reminds us not to pollute. We should have Walk to School Day more often." Home and School Associations members (left to right) Jen Herold, Maria Brennan and Deidre Abdallah enjoy the beautiful day as they distribute mums to Valley Road School community as part of their many fundraising efforts.