Thursday, January 29, 2009

City of Dunwoody & Kingsley Elementary apply for Safe Routes to School grant.

In an unprecedented partnership between the City of Dunwoody, the DeKalb County School System and the hard working parents of the Kingsley Charter School Council, I and am proud to display the formal 17 page Safe Routes to Schools grant application and supporting documentation that was submitted to the Georgia Department of Transportation less than two weeks after the City of Dunwoody was created.

Below is an article from the Dunwoody Crier discussing the proposal and each elementary school in Dunwoody is currently instituting a Safe Routes to School program therefore if you have children and are interested in assisting with this citywide endeavor, please talk to your local PTA.

Dunwoody Crier - Jan 27, 2009

Thirty years ago, the most common way for children to get to school was to walk. Times have changed, however, and the sight of children walking or riding their bike to school is something you are more likely to see on TV or in a movie than in your own neighborhood.

Kingsley Charter Elementary School and the City of Dunwoody are hoping to recapture some of the past - and replace car pool lines with lines of children walking to school. The city and the school have collaborated on a grant application through the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program. If selected, Dunwoody would receive nearly $460,000 worth of infrastructure improvements in the Kingsley neighborhood - such as new sidewalks, pedestrian crosswalks, traffic-calming devices and improved pedestrian lighting.

Safe Routes to School is an international movement designed to encourage students to walk or ride their bikes to school. Encouraging students to walk to school promotes a healthy and active lifestyle for children, reduces traffic and improves air quality through reduced emissions. Georgia’s SRTS program is managed by GDOT and backed by federal funding.

The local effort was initiated by Dunwoody City Councilman John Heneghan. Heneghan viewed SRTS as a great opportunity for Dunwoody to make needed improvements along the routes leading to our schools, making walking and biking to school a safe option for children.

“We need to look for innovative funding streams to make Dunwoody a safe community in which to walk and bike,” said Heneghan.

Heneghan hosted a community meeting in late October to discuss the pursuit of a SRTS grant for Dunwoody, and invited representatives from each of Dunwoody’s schools to attend. After several meetings to discuss and review the cases for each school, it was decided that the city would partner with Kingsley for this year’s application.

“Kingsley’s parents, together with Principal Karen Graham, put together a very strong grant application to improve the safety of Kingsley’s various routes to school in order to encourage more children to walk,” said Heneghan.

One of the biggest challenges was the grant had a deadline of December 12, less than two weeks after the city officially began business. To complete the application in such a short period of time required the cooperation of many people - including Kingsley’s parents and principal, several neighbors living near the school, the city of Dunwoody and the DeKalb County School System (which needed to approve the project).

“That’s a testament to the citizens we have in this city,” said Dunwoody Public Works Director Richard Meehan. “I think it’s great that we had citizens that were forward thinking enough to start looking at deadlines and grants that we could go after that we would be ready to turn in on day one.”

Another reason Dunwoody was able to submit such a strong application so quickly is that Kingsley had been working on its own SRTS program since the spring of 2007. In that time the school had formed a SRTS committee, improved traffic safety near the school with new car pool procedures and traffic patterns, created a parent safety patrol, conducted traffic surveys, collected traffic safety reports and worked on a formal walk to school program that will begin this spring.

Kingsley has used the resources available through the SRTS program, as well as taking advantage of complimentary programs from the Center for Disease Control (Kids Walk to School) and the Clean Air Campaign (Walk There For Clean Air). Kingsley is also a registered Clean Air School, and participates in the Clean Air Campaign’s No-Idle Program.

This spring, Kingsley plans to introduce a formal “Walking Wednesdays” program. Students could participate by joining a “walking school bus” - a group of students and parents walking together along a specific route to school. Based on responses from a parent survey, more than half of Kingsley’s parents said they would like to participate in the walking school bus program, but 75 percent cited apprehension over traffic safety as a major road block.

“Kingsley has the potential to be a great walking school, but the safety of our children is obviously our top priority,” said Tom Lambert, chair of Kingsley’s SRTS committee. “We have been eager to begin a formal walking program, but real concerns over traffic safety along our walking routes have slowed down our efforts.”

That is where the infrastructure improvements in the grant play a vital role. The project targets specific concerns of parents, neighbors and the school administration - and will create a pedestrian friendly environment along all of Kingsley’s proposed walking routes.

“We were very excited when we heard the city would be targeting a SRTS project,” said Lambert. “Kingsley had put in a lot of work on its SRTS plan, but we would not have been able to move forward without the leadership of Mr. Heneghan and the overwhelming support of the City of Dunwoody. I think it’s a great sign of things to come for Dunwoody.”

Both Kingsley and Dunwoody are hoping to receive good news this spring, when GDOT is expected to announce the projects it has approved for this year’s SRTS. Regardless of GDOT’s decision, however, Kingsley plans to persist with its SRTS efforts.

“We will continue to move forward on our Safe Routes program, but these infrastructure improvements are a vital component to maximizing our efforts,” said Lambert. “It could literally be the difference between a handful of kids participating or hundreds of students walking to school.”


DunwoodyParent said...

I hope Kingsley and the city are successful in obtaining this grant.

The shameful part is that hundreds of Dunwoody kids will be taken off the sidewalks and bicycles this fall and put on buses thanks to Jim Redovian and the school board's decision to create a 4th-5th grade school instead of redistricting our existing traditional k-5 schools.

Anonymous said...

Dunwoodyparent, there are not hundreds of Dunwoody kids who walk/ride their bikes to school.

For my part, I have heard zero complaints from my friends about the new 4/5 academy - in fact, they are excited that their children will be attending a new, clean, up to date facility.

DunwoodyParent said...

Glad to hear your friends are excited about the new school. I hope it is a success for them and their children.

In the winter the 'walker' numbers dip, but in spring and fall Austin has at least 125 kids walking/riding bikes every day. When the weather warms up a bit go sit there one morning and count as I have done. Have you ever counted the number of walkers at a given school or are you just here to be a cheerleader for the school board and the 4/5 academy? Vanderlyn has at least 100 walkers as well. I do not know about the other schools so perhaps you can do some research and report back.

Hopefully Kingsley's grant will be approved and they can add to their numbers of 'walkers'.

If the city were to improve sidewalks and add police to the school zones the number of 'walkers' may not drop as much next year, but without the 4th and 5th graders there to support their younger siblings on the walk, walking to school is a thing of the past for most families at Austin and Vanderlyn.

Dunwoody Police Watch Group said...

Well considering what we tax payers will be paying for Police, they should have one patrol car patrolling each school concerned. There will be 6 patrol cars per 12 hour shift, that equates to 1 car per 2 square miles. If you factor out land, that should be pretty darn easy to cover. With how much is being spent, we should have officers posted and holding our children's hand while crossing the street.

Do not get excited at this notion Dunwoody. You most likely will not see police coverage in your neighborhood. They will spend there time down by the mall, over near PIB (cops like to work areas that will provide excitement, PIB > Dunwoody Club Forest, get it?).

Do you feel safe Dunwoody?

Davis said...

A nice proposal. An afterthought now but it would have been nice to see improvements for the Happy Hollow area of the school district. We have a lot of kids over this way that could probably bike to school if there were sidewalks and bike paths that tied us in. Either way this is a good start.

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John Heneghan said...

I was just informed that the City of Dunwoody SRTS grant application was selected to be fully funded, all $450,000 dollars of improvements will be provided by the State for capital improvements.

More details to follow as I get them.