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Parents asked to weigh in about children's walking, biking patterns to school

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A cross walk in front of Highland Elementary School is part of the Safe Routes to School program.

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Sylvania parents are asked to weigh in on their children’s walking and biking patterns to and from a Sylvania school.

It is part of the Safe Routes to School program.

Parents with students at Highland, Maplewood, Sylvan Elementary schools have been asked to complete a 5 to 10 minute survey. Mandated as part of the Ohio Department of Transportation's program, the survey results will be used to shape a walking or biking program at each school, said Melissa Hallenbeck, outreach coordinator for Toledo Children’s Hospital.

In January, Sylvania Schools and ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital embarked on a safety walking program to encourage students to adopt a healthy lifestyle. The location of McCord Junior High School was found suitable for the on-foot travels.

Ohio’s campaign is part of a national effort with a double objective: To reduce children’s injuries to and from school and to promote wellness by encouraging people to walk and bike in the community. ODOT awarded the City of Sylvania about $30,000 for the educational portion of the project. 

In spring 2013, the city completed about $240,000 worth of infrastructure improvements to sidewalks, crosswalks, curbs, and signage near the four schools for the program. The cost was mainly covered by ODOT. 

The improvements were done at the school sites where students were already walking or biking to school.

Rather than have students cross the street at two or three intersections in front of the school, crosswalks were consolidated, said Kevin Aller, city service director.

"We had the students cross at one intersection," making it safer for those already walking or biking and so more students could arrive to school safely by bike to or foot, he explained. 

With safety as a priority, the parent survey measures the traffic, area and parent concerns. Parents have until March 3 to complete the online survey, or to fill out a paper copy at each school, Ms. Hallenbeck said

She said it also measures parent’s interest and attitudes towards walking, and boundaries that would prevent the child from biking or walking to class.

The idea is to have each walking program administered under parent supervision and tailored to each school or possibly to each class.

“Maybe in one neighborhood parents don’t feel safe, so we would say, 'Okay, can we do the walking school bus?' Maybe families feel there are no sidewalks for walking. Then we could do a drop-off location from a parking lot as opposed to walking out from their home,” she said as a way of altering walking patterns.

Ms. Hallenbeck, along with Amanda Brodbeck, an injury prevention specialist at Toledo Children’s Hospital, will begin visiting schools this month to teach students walking and biking safety.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356, or ntrusso@theblade.com, or on Twitter @natalietrusso.

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