Chula Vista is in southwest California and has the largest kindergarten through sixth grade district in the state. In 2007, the city of Chula Vista and the Chula Vista Elementary School District (CVESD) applied for and were awarded Safe Routes to School (SRTS) grants. One of the grants was designated for a non-infrastructure program for Otay and Rice Elementary Schools, while the other was for a city infrastructure program.
The California Department of Transportation awarded the city of Chula Vista with $621,000 in federal SRTS grant money for infrastructure improvements. The DOT also awarded CVESD a grant for $499,000 in federal SRTS funds for a coordinated non-infrastructure program.
Otay and Rice Elementary were selected to receive grant money, because demonstration walking audits for the areas showed obvious needs for infrastructure improvements that would be enhanced by a noninfrastructure component. During the first year, the non-infrastructure funds will be used for activities at Otay and Rice Elementary. During the second year, funding and activities will be expanded to an additional 15 schools.
Funds from the non-infrastructure grant will allow the CVESD to establish task forces at each school to organize events, such as walking school buses and Walk to School Days. Many of the students at Otay and Rice are English language learners, so to reach as many students and parents as possible, there are plans to initiate a bilingual campaign. This campaign will have a culturally appropriate logo and mascot that will educate students and parents on the benefits of walking and bicycling to school. Community health workers, or “promotores”, also will disseminate the information about the goal of SRTS, incentives, evaluations and Parent Safety Patrols to homes, parks, churches and laundromats.
In addition, the funds will go toward pedestrian and bicycle education programs that the teachers will integrate into their everyday lesson plans. For example, students in math class might calculate the number of steps they have taken, or social studies students might explore different transportation choices.
Enforcement improvements around the schools will include special enforcement efforts and a Parent Safety Patrol program implemented and run by school resource officers.
The infrastructure improvements around Otay and Rice Elementary will occur within one-quarter mile buffer zones of the school. The improvements will include an offset median, curb extensions, setback limit lines, enhanced striping, prominent crosswalk zebra striping, non-slip sidewalk grating and pedestrian ramps compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Crosswalk enhancements, the addition of f lashing yellow beacons and school zone warning signs will reduce potential driver and pedestrian conf licts.
The CVESD members want to begin many of the promotional activities in the spring and summer of 2008, which will allow them to begin implementing the program the following fall. By the end of the two year grant period, they anticipate a ten percent increase in walking and bicycling to Rice and Otay Elementary, and for a decrease in traffic volumes and childhood obesity.
Senior Grant Writer Chula Vista Elementary School District
Phone: (619) 425-9600 Ext. 1327