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Grants to make school routes safer

June 22, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Although Shepherdstown is a compact community, some students do not walk to Shepherdstown Elementary School because of a lack of sidewalks near the school, school Principal Suzanne Offutt said.

Thanks to West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, $83,000 is now available to correct the situation.

The money will be used to construct a sidewalk from the school on South Church Street to Fairmont Avenue, where a city sidewalk ends, Offutt said.

The sidewalk, which also will serve Shepherdstown Middle School on nearby Minden Street, is designed to encourage more children to walk to school and to cut down on air pollution as a result of less cars coming to the schools to drop off children, Offutt said.

The grant was given through the West Virginia Safe Routes to School program, which sets aside money to maintain safe routes for pedestrians, according to a news release from Manchin's office.

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The program encourages other alternative forms of transportation, like bicycles, and the money can also be used to purchase bike racks for the school and offer bicycle safety courses, Offutt said.

School officials also will start programs to encourage more children to walk to school, Offutt said. For example, a school volunteer or parent will lead a walking trip to the school from other points in town, Offutt said.

The volunteer will pick up other children along the way to join the walk, Offutt said.

"That's a walking school bus concept," Offutt said.

The sidewalk should be completed by the fall of 2009, Offutt said.

The grant to the schools was among more than $300,000 that was given to six schools in the Eastern Panhandle, according to Manchin's office.

Grants totaling about $88,000 was awarded to build sidewalks in a very congested area around Martinsburg North Middle School and Opequon Elementary School, both of which are on East Road in Martinsburg.

Housing developments have sprung up around the schools but there are no sidewalks on East Road for students, said Kitty Cauffman, a Berkeley County Schools official who applied for the grant. Cauffman used to be the principal at Martinsburg North Middle School.

"In fact, when I was principal there, I witnessed a boy getting hit," Cauffman said.

A $74,800 grant was awarded to install pedestrian-activated crosswalk signals along Mildred Street in Ranson, W.Va.

Crossing guards are stationed at crosswalks along busy Mildred Street at the beginning and end of classes at Ranson Elementary School, but there is no way to control traffic at the crosswalks at other times, said Patrick Davenport, community development director for the City of Ranson.

The new pedestrian-activated crosswalk signals might use a yellow light to alert motorists that pedestrians are crossing, Davenport said.

The last local grant - for $76,000 - will go to Paw Paw Elementary School in Morgan County for a sidewalk and crossing-guard program.

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