Grant to encourage more students to walk to school
The Monterey County Health Department announced today that it has been awarded $375,000 as part of a Safe Routes to School grant from the California Department of Public Health’s Kids’ Plate program. The Safe Routes to School grant will bring pedestrian and bike education to schools as well as traffic enforcement around the schools and the surrounding neighborhoods
The 21-month long grant begins on March 1, 2013 and will benefit four low-income schools in Seaside and one in Marina. The schools are Ord Terrace Elementary, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, Highland Elementary, Del Rey Oaks Elementary, and Marina Vista Elementary.
The Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program aims to encourage more students to walk to school and will help create safer neighborhoods to help them do so. While a large majority of students live within one mile of their schools, many of the parents still drive their children to school. This reduces the exercise a child gets and increases traffic around the schools. The lack of exercise may contribute to the high childhood obesity rates in Seaside, which is at 45.6%, the third worst in Monterey County. Furthermore, driving children to school causes major traffic congestion around schools in the mornings and afternoons.
The Safe Routes program will bring pedestrian and bike safety education directly to the students through assemblies and classroom presentations. Topics will include crossing the street safely, safe walking, watching out for unsafe drivers, bike safety, and helmet usage.
The Monterey County Health Department will also partner with the Seaside and Marina police departments to increase enforcement around the schools and also educate drivers about traffic safety rules.
A unique feature of the grant is having the children practice with a mock town brought to their school. As part of the mock town, students will work with pretend traffic situations such as cars backing up in
driveways and/ or drivers who are distracted, and learn to recognize these problems and how to protect themselves.
Educational information will be reinforced through traffic safety messages during after school programs. Peer educators will also be trained to help reinforce and deliver education to fellow students.
Special walk to school events will be held throughout the year to encourage walking and poster contests to help students remember what they have learned.