The recent story, "Buses delayed at Broad River by traffic jam," and concerns about our obesity epidemic demonstrate the impact that neighborhood schools have on the overall health of our community, as well as the unintended consequences that arise when elementary-aged children are forced to attend school a long distance from where their families live.
When children are driven or bused to school, it deprives them of an opportunity for physical activity. This adds to the number of vehicles on our roads and increases traffic across the region. On the other hand, if schools are located within walking or biking distance of where people live (as was the case with Shell Point Elementary), and if safe routes to school are provided, then children can make walking or biking a part of their daily lives, establishing healthy habits that can last a lifetime.
According to a 2011 state Department of Health and Environmental Control report, approximately 38 percent of Beaufort County third-graders and 40 percent of fifth-graders were overweight or obese, compared with 32 percent nationally. The Centers for Disease Control labels this an epidemic. Absent early intervention, such trends languish into adulthood and are difficult to reverse. This is evidenced by the fact that nearly 31 percent of South Carolina adults are now classified as obese; and 66 percent are classified as overweight.
It's time we all commit to promoting neighborhood elementary schools that minimize unnecessary driving, save energy, and encourage the formation of bonds between the school, families and the surrounding community.
Brian D. Herrmann
Editor's note: Herrmann is running for the District 4 seat on the Beaufort County Board of Education.