In January, Sylvania Schools and ProMedica’s Toledo Children’s Hospital will embark on a safety walking program to encourage students to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
Four schools in Sylvania will promote the Safe Routes to School program, funded mainly by the Ohio Department of Transportation. Amanda Brodbeck, injury prevention specialist at Toledo Children’s Hospital, said a task force will assemble in January to discuss implementing the program to get students to walk or bike to and from school.
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.
“Our goal is to get kids walking safely in groups and involve the community in ensuring they travel to and from school safely,” she said.
She cited Starr Elementary in Oregon as an example. The school has held a Walking Wednesday for three years. Volunteers, usually parents, lead and supervise the group, picking up children on the way as the pack gets closer to school. She compared it to a walking school bus, where students join in along the route, making it a fun, social activity.
In the Sylvania district, Highland, Sylvan, and Maplewood elementaries, as well as McCord Junior High School, were found to be in ideal sites for the program, where students can walk or bike in, she said.
Each school will tailor its walking program, emphasizing safety, to fit that school’s needs and schedules. Principals, parents, the Sylvania Police Department, and Safe Kids for Greater Toledo, a coalition tasked to prevent unintentional childhood injuries, will be part of the task force. The plan is for the program to be in place this spring, she said.
The educational program will include materials, classes, media outreach to motorists, guidelines on crossing the street safely, and data collection.
In spring 2013, the city completed the infrastructure for the program. The $240,000 cost was covered mainly by ODOT; $14,000 was paid from the city’s general fund, Kevin Aller, city service director, said.
ODOT awarded about $30,000 to the city for the program’s educational phase. Ms. Brodbeck said the Rotary Club of Sylvania donated $3,000 for bicycle helmets. Another $7,500 will be contributed by ProMedica for materials, including Flower Hospital’s purchase of “I’m Safe Pedestrian Activity Books,” with a map for kids to navigate their routes to school, she said. The city also will be involved in providing guidance on new sidewalk infrastructure, Mr. Aller said.
John Duwve, Sylvan Elementary principal, said a group effort like Safe Routes can make kids more apt to walk or bike to school.
“This will promote an active lifestyle for students and promoting parental involvement will help the kids feel more comfortable and more willing to walk or bike with family and friends,” he said.
More kids walking also means less cars in school lots, Ms. Brodbeck added.
“A program like this can reduce a lot of congestion” before and after school in the parking lots and surrounding area, which reduces the risks of injuries to kids, she said.
To learn more about the Sylvania Safe Routes to School program or to help the effort, contact Ms. Brodbeck at Amanda.Brodbeck@promedica.org or 419-291-7237.