Now that school is back in session for many public schools, most districts are encouraging students to keep fit by walking or biking to school this year. But Mapleton Public Schools wants some of its kids to stay on the bus until next year . By then the district should finish a pedestrian-friendly route to school, using a $198,319 federal Safe Roads to School grant.
The district is working with Adams County to design the route, including new sidewalks and pedestrian bridges over irrigation canals in a mile-long stretch of East 78th Avenue from York Street to the school. When the Welby Montessori moved to its current location on East 78th Avenue last year, the district decided to spend $12,000 per year to bus students who lived closer than would normally warrant transportation. Walking to school would have meant many of the elementary students would have to step into the 35-mph road to avoid irrigation ditches.
The Colorado Department of Transportation distributes the grant money each year. A CDOT advisory committee reviews applications and looks for those aiming to increase the number of students walking to class. In the past 50 years, the number of students who walk to school in Colorado has dropped to less than 15 percent from about 60 percent.
Having more children walking to school could help decrease childhood obesity and improve attention in school. It also helps with air quality and decreases traffic congestion, CDOT officials said. In recent years, grants have funded about 30 projects per year, but that’s only about a sixth of the applications received.
There is a federal program which supports establishing safe routes for students – Kids Walk-to-School. This is a community-based program that aims to increase opportunities for daily physical activity by encouraging children to walk to and from school in groups accompanied by adults. For more information, visit Kids Walk-to-School.