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AISD Gets the Blood Pumping with Healthy Bike Ride and Welcome Back Press Conference at Zavala Elementary Today

Austin Independent School District (AISD) Superintendent Meria Carstarphen kicked-off the 2011-2012 school year this morning by joining the bike club of Zavala Elementary School, the "Freewheelin' Mustangs," for a ride around their east side neighborhood. Zavala Elementary, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, hosted the back-to-school event and press conference.

"The early morning bike ride with students today fits well into one of the district's goals for the new school year: to promote wellness. Zavala used creativity to encourage students to be physically active by starting a bike club and their model should be followed in other schools," said Superintendent Carstarphen.

Austin Police Department strives to keep all students safe year-round and they assisted this morning by escorting the bike riders. The LIVESTRONG organization also participated in the event by offering their bike challenge expertise and hosting an official water stop for the group. The organization passed out LIVESTRONG wristbands and waved the bike riders into the homestretch with signs and encouraging chants.

Not to be outdone, the group with the most spirit on the first day of school in AISD were the University of Texas Spirit Group, featuring cheerleaders, pom squad members and "Hook'Em," the Longhorn mascot. The UT Spirit Group spent time on the Zavala campus to cheer on students to a victorious start of the new school year and remind them that attending school every day leads to college readiness.

AISD had a very significant increase in attendance this past year. Higher attendance generates more state revenue for the school district, while giving students a better opportunity to get the most out of their education. Studies show a direct correlation between attendance, student engagement and graduation.

"Today, everyone is excited because it is the first day of school," said Carstarphen. "But I want that excitement to last all year long. I want all students to be in school all day, every day. So parents, this is a reminder to you to get students to school. We cannot teach them if they are not here."

In addition to Zavala Elementary, Superintendent Carstarphen spent time today visiting Martin Middle School, Sanchez Elementary School, Govalle Elementary School, Eastside Memorial High School, Garza Independence High School and Bryker Woods Elementary School.

More than 86,000 students are expected to attend class today at 124 AISD campuses.

The events and press conference unfolded live on and Channel 22, while parents followed the social media outreach campaign on Twitter, @AustinISD with #AISD #Backtoschool, and on Facebook at