The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 15, 2013

Ashtabula Area City Schools Safe Routes to School plan to be unveiled

By SHELLEY TERRY - sterry@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

ASHTABULA — The city and the Ashtabula Area City Schools District are working together to develop a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program for Ash-tabula Lakeside Elementary Campus students.

Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is an international movement to create safe, convenient and fun opportunities for children to bicycle and walk to and from schools.

“The program has been designed to reverse the decline in children walking and bicycling to schools,” City Manager Jim Timonere said.

The SRTS project team will unveil a draft of the school travel plan to the public at the Ashtabula Board of Education meeting, starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Lakeside High School. Everyone is welcome.

The Ohio SRTS program is funded by the Federal Highway Administration and administered by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT).

The first step in developing a SRTS program, which includes new sidewalks and bike paths, is to come up with a school travel plan. The plan is a written document that outlines a community’s intentions for enabling students to engage in walking or bicycling as they travel to and from school. An approved plan is the requirement to receive funding from ODOT.

“Ashtabula’s program began in 2011 with the distribution of surveys to parents of K-8 children, regarding their opinions on the current walking and biking environment,” Timonere said.

 In January, the project team, consisting of teachers, parents and community leaders, conducted walking audits of the community. The audits primarily focused on the areas within two miles of the campus, Timonere said.

January was also the beginning of the school district’s new minimum busing policy designed to save the district $750,000, and allow it to end the year on the plus side financially, according to a resolution passed by the school board in September.

The busing changes mean the district completely eliminated transportation of students in grades 9-12, and students in grades K-8 who live less than two miles from the school.

Superintendent Patrick Colucci has said it’s an unfortunate situation, but the administrators and school resource officers have made the procedures as safe as possible.

Parents in the neighborhood of Wade Avenue have indicated they would like to see sidewalks for their children.

The Safe Routes to School program gave $584 million to 10,400 U.S. schools from 2005 to 2010, said Ashtabula resident Kevin Grippi, who first spearheaded the SRTS movement.