Piedmont Elementary School in Charleston, WV, is a public school for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. Located in the historic east-end district of Charleston, the school has many of the strengths and challenges that come with being an intercity school. Although most of the children live within walking distance of the school, many parents still drive their children to school because of their perception that there is too much crime in the neighborhoods. Upon learning about the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program, the Piedmont Elementary Local School Improvement Council began developing a Walk to School Day event that would raise community awareness of the importance of pedestrian and bicycle safety and of creating a more livable community for families.
Funded through volunteer time and business donations, Piedmont Elementary had its first Walk to School Day in 2007. The event began at 7 a.m., when children and parents walked from their homes to the local community center about five blocks from the school. For children who lived too far from school to walk, a bus dropped off the students at the community center. A personal trainer volunteered to lead the children in stretches and exercises before they walked to school. During the walk, parents, teachers, neighborhood volunteers and the principal led the children down the sidewalks, and police officers blocked the intersections of busy streets. Upon arriving at school, the children attended an assembly highlighting the importance of exercise and pedestrian and bicycle safety. At the end of the assembly, the children ate a healthy breakfast donated by local businesses.
The event was a success thanks to the 150 student participants, which is almost half the school’s population, and the more than 30 adult volunteers who helped coordinate the event. Walk to School Day was an important health and fitness event for bringing the community together, while showing children and parents that it is possible, safe and fun to walk to school.
Even though this was the school’s first Walk to School Day event, the Piedmont Elementary Local School Improvement Council already is planning next year’s event. Members have performed a walkability and bikeability assessment of the neighborhood, and parents have filled out parent surveys. The Council is compiling the results and analyzing the information, which will be used to develop future SRTS activities.
In January 2008, the Council applied for SRTS funding from the West Virginia Division of Highways. The application requests $75,000 in infrastructure funds and $20,500 in non-infrastructure funds. Most of the infrastructure money will go toward painting high-visibility crosswalks, which will pair crosswalks to curbcuts in the sidewalks. The non-infrastructure money will go toward hiring a SRTS coordinator, advertising SRTS activities and purchasing pedestrian and bicyclist safety curricula for the classrooms. Approval of funding is expected in spring 2008.
West Virginia Covenant House
Phone: (304) 344-8053 ext 22