As over 3,500 Walk to School Month celebrations come to an end this October, many communities across the country are considering establishing programs to encourage safe walking and bicycling to school on their campuses. Why not take a few tips from the playbook of one of the nation’s top programs?
The National Center for Safe Routes to School announces Alpine Elementary School, in Alpine, Utah, as the recipient of the 2010 James L. Oberstar Safe Routes to School Award, a national annual award that recognizes outstanding achievement in conducting a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program.
“I am pleased to recognize Alpine Elementary School's efforts to improve the health and well-being of its students by encouraging them to safely walk and bicycle to school,” said Chairman Oberstar. "Safe Routes to School programs, like the one at Alpine, are the catalyst of change America needs to transform our 'car-first' mind set and embrace other modes of transportation. Our communities will be more livable if we make additional transportation options available. That’s what we're celebrating with this award."
The James L. Oberstar SRTS Award is named for the congressman to honor his dedication to American schoolchildren as the pioneer for the federal SRTS program. Chairman Oberstar sponsored the SRTS legislation that strives to create safe settings to enable more parents and children to walk and bicycle to school.
Alpine Elementary School’s SRTS program is being recognized for excellence in: increasing the number of children who regularly walk and bicycle to school; engaging, students, parents and the community in the effort; and using creative strategies to encourage families to shift habits to a less car-focused commute. From September 2008 to May 2010, Alpine Elementary School’s SRTS program increased the percentage of children who regularly walked and bicycled to school from 35 to 50 percent.
“The Safe Routes to School program has been the keystone to a successful collaboration for student safety and academic improvement at Alpine Elementary School,” said former Principal David Stephenson, one of the champions of the program. “Students were so excited to come to school and participate in the activities and incentives provided by the program, and coincidently our attendance and readiness for each school day improved. It has truly brought about a healthy lifestyle change, forged new relationships in Alpine City and even in Africa, and fostered growth for a better future!”
In 2008, Alpine Elementary started its SRTS program with the theme BEE Safe, BEE Fit, BEE Kind. The goal was “to empower students to make a difference in their daily lives and the lives of others, all the while, integrating safety into their actions,” and included a partnership with Candle Light School in Kenya, Africa. Over the past two years, Alpine Elementary students have walked over 72,000 miles, and raised enough money through private donations to purchase three months’ worth of lunches for the entire Candlelight student body, and a cow and several goats and chickens for the school’s farm.
“We are very thankful for what all the students, teachers and parents of Alpine Elementary are doing to ensure other children from a very different culture have an opportunity to enjoy life and have self-esteem,” said Fred Afwai, principal and founder of Candle Light School in Nairobi, Kenya.
Having experienced two car crashes involving student pedestrians on their way to school prior to beginning the SRTS program, Alpine Elementary has also been vigilant about teaching safety skills. Students have participated in bicycle rodeos, pedestrian safety walks, assemblies, and safety poster contests. Parents were also encouraged to remind students about safety rules as they walked and pedaled in family participation activities. The school also utilized The Student Neighborhood Access Program (SNAP) to create their safe walking route plan or SNAP map to help facilitate these activities.
“The pure energy, creativity and dedication of Alpine Elementary School’s students and parents are inspiring,” said Lauren Marchetti, director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School. “Their Safe Routes to School program’s overarching strategy to use student-led activities and parental and community involvement is not only working well but it serves as a wonderful model for schools across the country.”
Alpine Elementary is part of the Alpine School District, the lowest funded school district in the nation. The school has received federal SRTS funding through the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) in the amount of $71,500, to install four solar-powered speed limit signs designed to slow traffic and improve student visibility at crosswalks, build a new walking/bicycling trail, make improvements to the bicycle storage area, and to support encouragement and educational activities. Alpine City donated approximately $125,000 in labor and materials toward improving routes to school.
The 2010 James L. Oberstar SRTS Award will be presented to Alpine Elementary School at a ceremony in December.
Alpine Elementary School was selected to receive the 2010 Award by a committee comprised of representatives from: American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, America Walks, the National Center for Safe Routes to School, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, Safe States Alliance and the Institute of Transportation Engineers.
About the James L. Oberstar Safe Routes to School Award
The James L. Oberstar Safe Routes to School Award is given annually for outstanding achievement in implementing the Safe Routes to School Program in the United States. The National Center for Safe Routes to School opens a call for applications each year, receives the applications and evaluates them with assistance of an expert panel representing organizations that promote safe walking and bicycling.
The award is named for Congressman Oberstar (D-MN) to honor his dedication to American schoolchildren as the pioneer for the National Safe Routes to School Program. Oberstar, current Chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, sponsored the Safe Routes to School legislation that strives to create safe settings to enable more parents and children to walk and bicycle to school. For more information on the Award, visit www.saferoutesinfo.org/data-central/success-stories/safe-routes-to-school-award.