St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School, located at 46th & Illinois, will be joining schools from around the world to celebrate International Walk to School Day on October 7, 2009. Up to 200 students will be walking to school, along with parents, teachers and community leaders.

According to the National Safe Routes to School website, St. Thomas is the only Indianapolis-area school registered to participate.  St. Thomas is using this day as the official kickoff to its Safe Routes to School program, which seeks to increase the number of students who walk and bike to school, educate children and parents on safe walking/biking practices, and improve the area’s infrastructure to make walking and biking to school safer.

Indiana’s First Lady Cheri Daniels is scheduled to walk one of the routes with students and talk with them during their morning assembly time (between approximately 7:50 and 8:10AM).  Also planning to walk with students are Michael O’Laughlin, Program Manager for Indiana Safe Routes to School; Nathan Sheets, Senior Project Manager, Indianapolis DPW; and Officer Henry Castor, Community Relations Liaison for IMPD.

As part of its overall Safe Routes to School program, the school has submitted a grant application to the Indiana Safe Routes to School Committee for $250,000 in infrastructure improvements throughout the Butler-Tarkington and Meridian-Kessler neighborhoods.  In addition, the school has partnered with Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital to provide training to students on safe walking and biking practices and is working with the Indianapolis Department of Public Works to implement low-cost recommendations such as crosswalk painting, signal timing modifications, and school zone signage.  The school is also training its school safety patrol to encourage safe walking and biking practices, including crossing at marked crosswalks, and is partnering with the Indianapolis Marion County Police Department to enforce traffic laws.