Safe routes becoming more readily available to students
(by Kim Lunsford, staff writer - April 16, 2010)
Pickerington Local School District has worked for four years on a program that would create safe routes for students to get to school.
The initiative is part of a national program called Safe Routes to Schools that includes more than 400 non-profit organizations, government agencies, schools and professionals working together using federal funds to encourage kids to walk or bike where it is safe. The program promotes walking and biking to school as a fun, healthy and earth-friendly activity.
At the April 12 Pickerington School Board meeting, board members werebriefed by Safe Routes representative Peggy Portier on the progress the program has made, as well as new plans in the works.
Recently, Pickerington's program received $43,530 to be used toward educational and encouragement programs. Some of the events held included the Walk with a Cop Day, which was held last fall to encourage students to walk to school and encourage parents to allow their children to walk.
Several educational handouts have gone out to families to help educate on safety as well. The largest portion of the grant is to provide every fifth- and sixth-grade student in the district with a brand new bike helmet this year and every fifth-grade student for the next two years.
The program also received a second grant in the amount of $248,021 to be used in part to fund two projects slated to being in the fall - to improve connections to neighborhoods surrounding Diley Middle School by paving the current mulch path and making it handicapped accessible, and making improvements to an existing sidewalk on the grounds being planned, Portier said.
Fairfield Elementary School will receive the largest portion of the funding to install sidewalks on four different streets, Oxford, Coventry, Stonecreek and Hounsdale, creating a loop and connecting to a short segment of existing sidewalk at the school. There also will be upgrades to the crosswalks and flashing school signs installed.
In the fall of 2009, the program applied for two additional grants through the Ohio Department of Transportation and recently found out it was granted a non-infrastructure grant for $10,800 and a new infrastructure grant for $318,793.
The non-infrastructure funds will go toward safety equipment for those who are helping students cross the street in schools without current equipment. There will be a purchase of reflective crossing guard caddies, extra safety vests and hand held stop signs, Portier said.
The new infrastructure grant will fund sidewalk installation, curb ramp improvements and bike racks on and around Violet Elementary School. A sidewalk also will be installed on one side of the street on Village Way and Easton Drive, creating a connection with Ravine Drive and making a full loop around the neighborhood, she said.
City Engineer Greg Bachman, who partners with the district for the Safe Schools Program, spoke to the board about the process and how times have changed with children today not having the luxury to roam freely around town.
"It is a passion of mine to provide a path for our students to come to school as well as the community," Bachman said.
A new travel plan is in the works to gain funding to include the three new schools opened last fall as well.
"It's nice to see the time and effort paid off," Board member Lisa Reade said of the progress.
The safe route is not necessarily the shortest, however. The Safe Routes to Schools program provides the following safety tips for parents and students walking to school.
* Wear bright colors and reflective gear if it1s dark or hard to see.
* Look for traffic at every driveway and intersection. Watch for drivers in parked cars.
* Stop, look and listen. Wait until there are no more cars coming to cross the street.
* Walk, don't run.
* Walk on the left side of the street to face traffic whenever possible.
* Choose routes where there are sidewalk or paths separated from the street.
* Avoid busy streets. Cross at intersections or crossing guards.
* The district will host a Community Forum for 21st Century Skills on April 27 at Lakeview Junior High School at 12445 Ault Road. The forum to discuss which skills are most important to the future of the Pickerington community will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. and will include Partnership for 21st Century Skills President Ken Kay.
P-21 is a national organization that pushes for 21st century readiness for students providing tools and resources to help the United States education system keep up with a global economy that is changing constantly.
* Communications Director Lee Cole was the recent recipient of the Ohio Chapter of the National School Public Relations Association's Print Newsletter Mark of Excellence Award.
"There is not enough communication no matter how hard you try," Superintendent Karen Mantia said. "This is because there is too much information."
She said Cole does a great job for the district and has done tremendous work.
* Board Members discussed moving forward on a District Performance Audit, which would request the state to send in auditors in areas pinpointed by the board to ensure the district is making the best choices fiscally and sensibly in the district. This will help to streamline operations, District Treasurer Dan Griscom said.
"It's good to have a second set of eyes to come in," board member Lisa Reade said.