To ensure that America's kids travel to and from school safely, DOT’s Federal Highway Administration supports the National Center for Safe Routes to School. This terrific program works to create safe settings and fun programs that encourage children to walk or bicycle to school.
Each year, the National Center for Safe Routes to School usually recognizes one Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program in the country for outstanding achievement in promoting safe walking and bicycling to school. But this year – a first in the history of the James L. Oberstar Safe Routes to School Award – two schools will receive this national honor: Heatherwood Elementary School in Boulder, Colorado, and Omro Middle School in Omro, Wisconsin.
As Lauren Marchetti, director of the National Center, said, “Both of this year’s award recipients are being recognized for developing and implementing successful programs unique to their individual school’s needs.”
A rural highway near the school entrance prevented many students from walking or biking to Heatherwood Elementary School. But thanks to funding from the Colorado Department of Transportation to build a crosswalk across the highway, paired with tremendous support for the program from parents and faculty, the school’s SRTS efforts and activities have resulted in a tremendous increase in the number of students who regularly walk or bicycle to school. In just three years, Heatherwood Elementary's walkers and bicyclists jumped from 12 percent to more than 43 percent of the school.
When budget cuts reduced the number of weekly physical education classes, the staff at Omro Middle School decided to take action. The school developed a cycling program that includes a fleet of more than 35 bicycles available to students during Physical Education classes, lunch, special events, and even field trips.
What makes the program extra special is that the bicycle fleet is not maintained by adults, but by the school’s “Young Mechanics” – trained high school and middle school students working in a fully tooled bike shop.
Studies show that walking or biking to school helps young people wake up their brains for a day of schoolwork, and that more activity leads to better health. So it's encouraging to see these schools’ commitment to their SRTS programs and to making sure students are healthy and get to school safely.
Congratulations to Heatherwood Elementary School and Omro Middle School for winning these awards. Keep up the good work!