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WHITING — Instead of big yellow buses and congested parent drop-off lines, a different set of of wheels graced Oliver Street Tuesday morning.

Reggy, the fuzzy fuchsia mascot of the Whiting Mascot Hall of Fame, raced by the Nathan Hale Elementary front entrance on his roller blades as students ducked their heads into the building.

For the fourth time in two years, Nathan Hale, along with the rest of the School City of Whiting, celebrated its regular Walk to School Day.

Students at Nathan Hale Elementary, Whiting Middle School and Whiting High School were encouraged to ditch their morning rides in favor of a little exercise to start their day, coming a week after National Bike to School Day.

Nathan Hale Principal Julie Pearson stood outside her building greeting each student by name and handing out flashing bike reflectors.

"We encourage a different way to get to school," Pearson said. "It's nice to see everyone walking in with their parents and their grandparents. It sets a different tone in the morning when you're walking."

The program began two years ago in conjunction with Mayor Joe Stahura's Green Initiatives. Once a semester — in October and April — the district slows down a bit and incentivizes healthy transportation alternatives — walking, biking or, as Reggy demonstrated, skating to school.

"We have a lot that drive," Pearson said. "But, we're such a small community, so we're really trying to encourage kids to walk not just today, but every day."

Pearson said more walkers and fewer car drivers is not only environmentally friendly, but also helps free up traffic congestion outside the landlocked Nathan Hale, Whiting Middle and Whiting High schools.

Younger students living too far to walk were dropped off Tuesday morning outside the school city's football field and escorted to their respective buildings by high school students involved in National Honor Society.

Sophomore Whiting High School volunteers Renee Patton and Kevin Torres said the Walk to School Day gave them the opportunity to get to both exercise and form relationships with the younger students.

"Since we're a small community, we're a little bit closer than most places," Patton said. "This is one thing a small community can do."

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Education Reporter

Carley Lanich covers education in Lake County and throughout the Region. She comes to Northwest Indiana from Indianapolis and is an IU-Bloomington grad.