The Safe Routes to School program is a national movement geared toward uniting neighborhoods and creating a safe environment for students to walk or bike to school while allowing for less traffic congestion and air pollution. In 2012, South Washington County Schools held a workshop where the principals and administrators in attendance shared concerns about high volumes of cars at drop-off/pickup time and indicated a strong interest in the program.
“We wrote a grant [through the Minnesota Department of Transportation or MnDOT] and were chosen to participate in the first round,” says grant and wellness coordinator Jodi Witte. “MnDOT consultants worked with us to do walking audits at each site, help create safe route plans for all seven schools and give infrastructure recommendations, though finding funds for some of the changes poses a challenge.”
Witte says that big change starts small, asking, “How do we educate and inform and make it safer?” Part of the initiative includes an annual walk in October and a bike to school day in May. “Schools have a great time doing it; it’s a great community-building event,” she says. “The primary goals are to get people to re-think their children’s school commute and to mobilize the community in a coordinated effort, increasing public safety and health.“