Archive for Thursday, December 6, 2007

District denied Safe Routes grant

Phase two plans fail to receive funds; schools not discouraged

December 6, 2007

It was a disappointing letter that broke the news to task force members of the Safe Routes to School program that Lansing did not receive the $250,000 grant officials had applied for in August.

The grant, which would have come from a five-year national campaign that gives $1 million a year for safe routes program across the state, was to be used for new sidewalks and safety lights along busy walking routes for students near Lansing schools.

Mary Alice Schroeger, Lansing Education Foundation Fund director, said she was disappointed by the decision but added that the Lansing program was invited to apply again next year, which would be the third year of the five-year grant program.

The letter Schroeger received said the Lansing community did not have as great a need for the money as many of the other applicants did. Schroeger said the grant is a competitive process, so next year the task force will have to make its proposal better.

Super-intendent Randal Bagby said it was always difficult in general for Lansing schools to receive outside grants. Compared to other districts, he said Lansing has a low number of students on free or reduced lunch plans and the mean income of residents is higher.

"It would have been really nice, but sometimes to get grants you have you make yourself look really bad, which it hard to do in Lansing," he said.

Lansing received an original grant of $14,500 for phase one of the Safe Routes to School project. Schroeger said it was a planning grant that allowed a task force to be formed and to conduct an extensive safety audit that made recommendations for future improvements.

The task force will reconvene in May to revamp the proposal, Schroeger said. The phase II grant application contained plans for both physical safety measures, such as sidewalks and safety lights, as well as plans to add a safety curriculum into the classroom.

"It really was a good collection of both infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects," she said."

Schroeger said she wants to get more input from students for next year's proposal. She said they are the ones who know firsthand how they're getting to school and what short cuts they may be taking.

Schroeger is optimistic that eventually the more needy schools will all be funded and Lansing will get its piece of the pie from the remaining amount. If that doesn't happen, however, Schroeger said that Lansing is a community that would band together to find the money elsewhere if it meant keeping students safe.


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