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Winter can’t slow down kids walking at L.P. Quinn in TL

Franklin Tremblay walks around the track at L.P. Quinn Elementary School in Tupper Lake. The 12 sneaker-shaped charms on his lanyard each equal five miles he has walked, totaling 70 miles. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

TUPPER LAKE — A troop of first-grade students filed off a school bus at the L.P. Quinn Elementary School, but instead of heading to the cafeteria to hang out before classes began, they made a beeline for the school’s track, which was covered in around a foot and a half of snow.

Joining more than 20 students from Kindergarten to sixth grade, they started running, walking and bounding through the snow. It was around 10 degrees out and they were bundled in puffy jackets, heavy boots and oversized hats. Still, they ran.

They run every morning, between 15 and 120 of them, all L.P. Quinn students.

“If it’s above 10 degrees, with the windchill and everything, then we come out,” said Rebecca Dewyea, a reading assistant and organizer of the walking program.

In the fall she said the program would regularly bring in over 80 students a day. As snow fell that number has, too, but some students have taken to walking inside in the gym to get their miles in.

Before students spent their mornings outdoors, walking the track, they would all gather to eat and hang out inside the cafeteria first thing in the morning.

“It was pretty squishy and loud and non-productive,” Dewyea said.

She said she saw the idea online and pitched it to the school board, who were eager to pick it up. With a $700 grant raised by Adirondack Health’s annual 5K the program was up and running.

Dewyea started it in September and students have already walked a total 2,500 miles.

Colin Strack set a goal to walk 200 laps this year. He already hit that goal and still comes out regularly to run and walk.

“My favorite part about the morning program is that we don’t have to sit in the cafeteria and hear kids scream like the whole time,” Strack said at a school board meeting.

He said the daily exercise leaves him feeling energetic.

“It’s much better than sitting in the cafeteria getting in trouble,” Dewyea said. “There’s all kinds of problems when you’re sitting there with nothing to do.”

The kids still goof off, though. While some are focused on racking up miles, or training to shave time off their end-of-the-year “dream mile,” others walk and talk with friends. One lay down in the powder and the others kicked snow over her.

Dewyea said she prefers this type of goofing off.

“A lot of them love it,” Dewyea said. “They say it gives them energy, wakes them up, gets them moving.”

At the January school board meeting several students told the board of why they like the program and how it works. Excitedly, they ran from board member to board member, showing off their miles, represented by shoe-shaped charms on lanyards.

The track is a quarter-mile long, so every 20 laps equals five miles and every five miles equals one charm. Some kids color coordinate them, some are tying to collect as many as possible.

Dewyea said once a month the school announcements includes shoutouts for all the kids who have received new charms.

Not everyone collects them though.

“The sixth graders are too cool,” Dewyea said. “But the fifth-graders coming up behind them are really into it. They’ll keep it cool.”

Teachers walk with the students, too, racking up miles themselves. Dewyea said she used to walk regularly and that this program gives her the time to do it again.

Toward the end of the program on Thursday, another boy rushed over, knee deep in the snow between the building and track.

“Jeez! I’m running out of breath!” he exclaimed as he rested for a second.

After that second he took off, slugging through the snow to catch his classmates.

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