Springfield to benefit from Safe Routes to School Planning Grant
The Region 9 Develop- ment Commission learned on April 4 that it has been awarded federal funding for local Safe Routes to School planning from the Minnesota Department of Transportation for 2016-2017. The funding will cover planning efforts for Springfield Public Schools and St. Raphael Catholic School in Springfield, along with Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial Secondary and Sibley East Elementary. Safe Routes to School projects and programs aim to make it safer and easier for students to walk and bicycle to school.
In accordance with MnDOT guidelines,Region Nine Development Com-mission will receive the funds and coordinate the planning process along with a community-based team that includes parents, students, teachers, business owners and other community leaders.
“We’re extremely excited to have received this funding,” said Melissa Hoffmann, a registered nurse who is a member of the Springfield Community Wellness Team and works for Healthy Together, a partnership of Brown, Nicollet, Le Sueur and Waseca Counties funded by the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP). Hoffmann added, “Our students will gain lifelong healthy habits and improved academic performance through physical activity, while our schools will become safer with reduced traffic and improved air quality.”
Region Nine Development Commission will receive the funds and coordinate the planning process along with a community-based team that includes parents, students, teachers, business owners and other community leaders. Planning will start sometime in the fall of the 2016-17 school year, depending on when the contract between MnDOT and Region Nine is finalized. The planning process will involve working with the schools and parents to identify how many children currently walk or bike to school, identify the barriers for walking and biking to the school, and develop a plan to address those barriers and create a safe environment.
According to the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, the five “Es” of Safe Routes include: evaluation, engineering, education, encouragement and enforcement. Accordingly, Springfield’s plan will include education on pedestrian and bicycle safety, encouragement strategies to promote walking and biking, enforcement strategies to create a supportive walking and biking environment, and evaluation of the results of the efforts to make corrections as needed to the plan. It will also identify the engineering and infrastructure changes needed in the community to improve safety.