Friday, February 6, 2009

School Siting and Safe Routes to School

Reading Eagle 'Plans for Wilson School District outlined at public forum' by Negley
and 'Kutztown board reconfigures elementary schools' by Park.

Southern Berks News, Tassamer; Blog: TassMania
Greth Development Property (Also known as the Amber Hill Development)
Estimated cost: $3,950,000
Zoning: Rural district, schools by special exception
Aesthetics:Pleasant vistas, absence of noise, open fields, wooded areas?
92.149 acres northwest parcel
16.684 wooded acres southeast parcel
Transportation: Good, no walkers?

Negley writes, "Without the staggered start times, the district would have to spend $1 million for new buses and drivers, Mussoline said."

This does not have to be the case. Districts can cut transportation costs by keeping schools in neighborhoods where children live and by participating in the Safe Routes to School program.

The International Walk to School event lists 225 schools in PA which supported safe walking and bicycling. School districts in Berks County, such as Fleetwood and Antietam, prioritize children's health, the environment, and safety by promoting walking and bicycling through education, encouragement, enforcement, engineering and evaluation. Children who attend neighborhood schools can enjoy walking and bicycling to school all year long with Safe Routes to School programs. Federal legislation, PennDOT, and PANA recognize the value of walking and bicycling and provide funding for communities to establish SRTS programs.

I hope school boards seek input from the public and promote wellness and community development. When schools reorganize by grade level, children in the district are likely to be bused every year. Building and maintaining neighborhood schools allows children to walk or bicycle half of the years they attend public schools. The health and financial costs alone should be incentive enough for districts to protect and build neighborhood schools.

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