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Chelsea, Dexter Receive State Funding for 'Safe Routes to School' Programs

Mini-grants will be used to develop walking programs for children in elementary and middle school.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Michigan Fitness Foundation announced Thursday that Dexter Community Schools and Chelsea School District will receive federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) funding.

The schools are two of 17 elementary and intermediate schools in six counties that will receive mini-grants averaging $4,050 each to develop programs that encourage more students to walk and bicycle to school.

MDOT and the Michigan Fitness Foundation work with schools, neighborhoods, students, teachers, parents, school transportation directors and local law enforcement agencies on SRTS initiatives. There are two categories of grant funding. One focuses on eliminating barriers to safe walking and bicycling with such safety improvements as sidewalk replacement and repair, crosswalk marking, installing bike racks and signs, and traffic calming and speed reduction measures.

The other category focuses on educational activities to teach children to be safe and responsible on roadways and sidewalks while enjoying the health benefits of physical activity.

The mini-grants will fund educational activities like "Walking School Bus" and "Corner Captains" programs.

In Chelsea, Beach Middle School will receive a $2,338 mini-grant. Participant data will be tracked with a scanner and barcode tag system. This technology uses a scanning device and personalized barcode tag for each student to record the total number of miles walked or biked, along with carbon dioxide savings and calories burned.

The Active4.me system offers an option to notify parents/caregivers via e-mail or text when the barcode has been scanned to let them know their students have arrived safely at school. The program will serve roughly 60 students.

South Meadows Elementary School will receive a $1,916 mini-grant to begin a Walking School Bus program. Trained adult volunteers will serve as Walking School Bus leaders. Prior to the start of the program, an interactive safe streets presentation by Wayne State University's Transportation Research Group will be used to teach pedestrian safety to students in grades three through five. The program expects to serve approximately 50 students.

In partnership with the Chelsea-Area Wellness Foundation, Creekside Intermediate School in Dexter will receive a $1,843 mini-grant to operate five Walking School Bus routes for students who live within a 1-mile radius of the school. Specific areas of concern for this age group include using designated crosswalks, crossing safely, and discouraging distractions like cell phones and personal music players. The program expects to serve approximately 50 students.

Wylie Elementary School will receive a $1,921 mini-grant to operate a Walking School Bus program. Prior to the start of the program, an interactive safe streets presentation by Wayne State University's Transportation Research Group will be used to teach students in grades three and four how to cross safely and understand traffic signals and the importance of walking in groups for visibility and safety, with a special focus on students who must cross Baker Road to get to school.

"Safe Routes empowers schools to provide educational campaigns with proven track records," said state transportation director Kirk T. Steudle. "With this round of funding, MDOT is helping to establish Safe Routes initiatives in communities all the way from the Upper Peninsula to Detroit. We are pleased to participate in this program."

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