(WLTX) - Every morning, Chris Clement and his son make the 10-minute walk to Rosewood Elementary School. “Walking with my son is the best quality time of the day, aside from bedtime, it’s a really pleasant way to spend time,” says Clement.
Clement is one of over a dozen Rosewood Elementary parents who organized The Safe Routes to School Rosewood Committee (Safe Routes) in Spring 2007. Rosewood Elementary School is one of twelve South Carolina schools selected to receive the highly competitive $200,000 grant from the Department of Transportation (DOT), which requires Safe Routes to spend the money on five key components: encouragement, education, engineering, enforcement and evaluation.
Creating Healthy Habits
What the Safe Routes parents noticed were kids who are dropped off and picked up even if they live walking distance from the school.
“When kids do not walk or bike to school, society as a whole is unhealthy,” Clement added. In fact, according to South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), almost 55% of South Carolina adults are either inactive or do not meet the minimum amount of physical activity recommended for better health.
Safe Routes parents recognize that by driving children to school, they are perpetuating the trend of unhealthy habits. Participating parents are hoping that through their efforts they will see an increase in the number of children who walk or ride a bike to school, even though across the nation that number has declined.
The amount of traffic traveling near Rosewood Elementary School is one of the biggest concerns parents have. Drivers often ignore the 25 mile-per-hour speed limit during school hours and parents themselves are frequently seen whipping around corners and parking in places that force kids on foot to walk in the street.
For students living near the school, the lack of sidewalks, crosswalks and bike lanes make parents hesitant to send their kids to school on foot. To solve this problem, Safe Routes organized a “Walking School Bus.”
Rosewood Elementary’s Walking School Bus leaves every Friday morning from two locations near the school, Rosewood Park on South Holly Street and Sims Park on Duncan Street. Parents can drop their kids off at one of the parks to walk in a group accompanied by two or three adults. “The group of kids may start out as only three or four, but they pick kids up along the way and often times they arrive at school in a group of seven or eight,” said Clements.
About $180,000 of the grant money Safe Routes has received will be used to improve sidewalks, signage, and crosswalks.
Safe Routes is exploring a variety of new signage, including reminders that it’s state law to stop for pedestrians, larger speed limit notifications and possibly radar indicators that will show a driver’s actual speed versus the required school zone speed. Additionally, new crosswalk designs have been considered, from bright green paint to blinking reflectors in the street to clearly define street crossings.
Aside from infrastructure changes, students at Rosewood Elementary are making tickets for parent volunteers to hand out to other parents in cars as an effort to raise awareness.
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Work to be done
Safe Routes has until mid-January 2008 to budget for their grant, though there are a few more obstacles the grant will not cover.