By John Burton |
FAIR HAVEN – It was a welcoming, inspiring sight, and one that Fair Haven residents have come to look forward to as an annual tradition as young school-age children made their way, mostly on two wheels, to the next stage of their educational life.
On Friday, third graders from the Viola L. Sickles School, the district’s primary school on Willow Street, took part in the time-honored tradition known as Transition Day.
On this day in June, the students boarded their bikes, accompanied by some Sickles School officials and even police officers on bicycles, and made their way from the primary school to the Knollwood School, 224 Hance Road, which houses the public school district’s fourth to eighth grades.
The day has become a celebration of that grade’s advancement and moving on to another school building. The students on their bikes were cheered by Sickles’ younger students, teachers and other school staffers. And along the route to Knollwood, parents and family and community members lined the street, offering cheers, displaying signs and chalk etchings of encouragement on the asphalt roadway, laying the path for the traveling group.
“It’s definitely a rite of passage,” said Amy Romano, Knollwood principal, “taking that next big step in their lives.”
Romano said she planned her “nice principal talk,” explaining to the approximately 112 kids who will be entering the building in September what is in store for them. What is in store for them, she said, is the possibility of an education in a bigger facility with more students and “more opportunities and programs available to them.”
Sean McNeil, the public school district’s superintendent of schools, wearing his warm weather light blue
seersucker suit and donning a safety helmet, led the group on his bicycle. McNeil also saw the event as “a nice way to highlight safe bike culture,” encouraging children to use all precautions when riding.
Fair Haven has a long history of being a bicycle-centric community, as many, maybe even most, school-age children regularly ride to school, weather permitting. And at less than 2 square-miles, it’s commonplace to see families using their bicycles on weekends and afternoons, making their way around the community.
“It speaks to what Fair Haven is. It’s how you live here,” observed Mayor Benjamin Lucarelli, noting the prevailing small-town sensibility that continues to draw families here.
And it drew a video crew here on Transition Day. A group working with the state Department of Transportation and with the Rutgers University New Jersey Safe Routes to School Resource Center saw this tradition as the perfect example of how a community can adapt to create the opportunity for sustainable, livable communities that provide safe environments for bicycle use or walking.
During portions of school days, Fair Haven closes off a section of 3rd Street to provide a safe route for children traveling to and from the school facilities. “To me, it shows what’s possible, to connect with a community,” said Ranjit Walia, with Civic Eye Collaborative, an urban planning and multimedia studio working on the video.
“It is something that we’re encouraging. It’s inspiring,” added Trish Sanchez from the safe resource center. “And it’s not hard to do,” she continued, believing the video, which will be available on the center’s website, will encourage other communities to take these kinds of steps to make communities more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly. “To me, it’s a case of what’s possible,” she said.
Sanchez said the groups have been doing videos on communities around the state, showing different initiatives that are being adopted to improve the quality of life.
Police Chief Joseph McGovern said his wife recalled Transition Day back when she was a student at Sickles going back to the early 1980s. But when it actually started is “lost to history,” Lucarelli acknowledged. But it will be something that is likely to continue, he maintained. Because, he said, “Times may change but standards remain.”
This article was first published in the June 15-June 22, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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