Archive for Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Safe routes to schools goal of program

July 23, 2008

A program under way in Kansas strives to make sure children get to school safely and help their physical fitness along the way.

The Kansas Department of Transportation's Safe Routes to Schools program doled out grants in excess of $200,000 to seven communities across Kansas. In this area, the Baldwin School District received a $206,630 grant from the state late last year.

Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center, Baldwin Elementary Intermediate Center and Baldwin Junior High School will benefit from the improvements.

"The bulk of the award - $193,000 - will be used for sidewalk, crosswalk and signage improvements in six different specific locations," said Baldwin City Administrator Jeff Dingman, adding that the other $13,000 goes to educational programs.

Design work is being completed on those projects and work could start as soon as that is completed. It's unknown if it will be finished before school starts in August.

"We only have one of the six that might need special timing considerations, as it's in front of the BESPC, and we don't want any construction to mess with their pickups and dropoffs when school is in session," Dingman said. "I'm pretty sure we won't be in a position to get that done before school starts, but there is an outside chance."

Baldwin City's grant was for Phase II of the program, which is the actual bricks and mortar to improve safety. Phase I funding allows studies to be done, which had already taken place here.

A total of 24 Kansas communities received either Phase I or Phase II funding this year. As more communities learn about it, the demand goes up.

"The Safe Routes to School programs have been very popular throughout Kansas, and I'm encouraged with the number of excellent applications we received," said Lisa Koch, KDOT Safe Routes to School coordinator. "At its heart, the SRTS program empowers communities to make walking and bicycling to school a safe and routine activity once again.

"We have seen obesity rates among children more than double in the past 20 years," said Koch. "It's probably not a coincidence that only 15 percent of all school trips are made by walking or bicycle so this program can play a vital role in the health of our children."

Baldwin City didn't get everything it wanted in its grant application or it would have totaled the maximum $250,000.

"We had proposed adding a crossing guard program for the intersection of Sixth and Ames (streets) and Eighth and Ames, but that portion of our request was not funded," said Dingman.

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