Boosting the numbers of Maumee schoolchildren who walk or bike to school instead of riding school buses or in family cars is the goal of a planning meeting scheduled 6 p.m. Thursday.
Once the plan is completed, Maumee will be eligible for state-administered federal funds to pay for better sidewalks, signs, and crosswalks, and similar safety improvements.
A draft of the city’s Safe Routes to Schools study shows that walking or biking account for less than one-ninth of all school trips among Maumee’s grade-schoolers, even though more than half of them live within a mile of their schools.
The walking and biking percentages are slightly better among Gateway Middle School students because more of them walk home after riding to school in the morning.
The travel study, to be discussed during the public meeting in the auditorium at Gateway school, cites parental concerns about traffic, distance, and walking alone as primary reasons they drive their children to school or send them by bus.
The report noted that Maumee’s school realignment several years ago, during which Union Elementary was closed and the grade-level makeup of the remaining three was changed, meant that schoolchildren no longer attend neighborhood schools. Many now live on the opposite side of the busy Anthony Wayne Trail from where they go to school.
School district policy is to provide transportation for children who live more than a mile from school, or for students in the fifth grade or below, whose route requires crossing the Trail.
“The Anthony Wayne Trail is our biggest thing,” said Larry Burda, the school district’s facilities supervisor.
Safe Routes to School projects typically include enhanced crosswalks, new signs, and sidewalk improvements. The program does not pay for crossing guards or other safety personnel, although crossing guards were suggested by many parents as a factor that could encourage them to have their children walk to school.
Mr. Burda said projects that Maumee officials want to include adding flashing lights to school zone speed-limit signs, installing wheelchair ramps on sidewalks in front of Gateway, and adding sidewalks to streets near Fort Miami.
The report also suggested such steps as setting up “walking school bus” programs in which students walk to school together with volunteer escorts, a railroad safety program for children whose routes cross railroad tracks, and providing radio frequency identification tags to students so parents can confirm their children’s arrival at school.
The Safe Routes to School program only applies to schools serving children up through the eighth grade.
Area communities that have adopted Safe Routes to School plans and received funds for improvement projects include Oregon, Perrysburg, and Sylvania.
Contact David Patch at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6094.
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