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If you have a hard time getting your kids out of bed for school in the morning, a new grant awarded to five Springfield elementary schools might have them up with the sun. KSMU’s Chasity Mayes reports on how grants to improve school zone safety will have students excited to hop on the bus, but it’s not what you think.
On their first day of Kindergarten, they were thrilled to jump out of bed and ride the school bus to class. But for some, by the time elementary school rolled around the excitement had worn off. The Ozarks Regional YMCA helped write the grant that will not only make school zones safer, but will get kids moving.
“The five schools selected do have a lot of walkers in their community, and so we will be doing a walking school bus.”
That’s Mary Kromrey. She is the associate executive director of the Downtown YMCA and says funding for the grants should be dispersed to the participating schools in August. All five schools will kick off the “walking school bus” this fall.
“[A] walking school bus is, instead of having a bus route where you know, a motorized vehicle drives along and picks up youth, we will basically have a group of volunteers and they will have a route and they walk the route and children come out of their homes and join in and they walk together. That way they have a safe environment to walk with,” says Kromrey.
It was a network of community organizations known as COAG, or Childhood Obesity Action Group that took on the task of writing the grant, but since it’s not its own not-for-profit organization the YMCA serves as a fiscal agent for the project.
Kromrey also says the walking school bus portion of the “Safe Routes to School Program” has many benefits.
“Some of the schools that have done this before have noticed that behavioral problems decrease [and] they have noticed that attendance increases. So, it’s a win-win for everybody. And the walking school bus will take place in the morning so our volunteers will head out. They’ll arrive about 45 minutes ahead of time and go to the start of their route. And they’ll walk abound and they’ll be wearing colored vests and then the youth will come out, they’ll join in the line, and they’ll all walk in together and they will get them there in time for breakfast in the morning,” says Kromrey.
The five Springfield elementary schools that will receive the funding are: Jeffries, Rountree, Weaver, Williams, and Delaware. The Missouri Department of Transportation says it has awarded 34 grants totaling $582,000 to school districts, police departments, and other organizations looking to improve school zone safety in Missouri. The “walking school bus” is just one newly developed idea happening in the Ozarks. The funding can be used to increase law enforcement on roads near schools, improve crossing guard programs, and safety education for students.
Dawn Gardener is the transportation planning specialist for MoDOT. She says “Safe Routes to School” is a federal program.
“The funds are federal funds that flow from the federal highway administration to MoDOT and MoDOT just administers the grants,” says Gardener.
The YMCA will be using the Springfield Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommended routes throughout the school year for the “walking school bus.” More than $20,800 will be split between the five elementary schools. The schools will initially pay out of pocket, but will be reimbursed.
For KSMU News, I’m Chasity Mayes.