Jericho Elementary School, a kindergarten through fourth grade school in Jericho, VT, faced two obstacles in creating a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program: few students living within walking distance, and a highway next to the school prevents many of the children who live nearby from walking to school. With the help of Jericho Elementary parent volunteers and an infrastructure SRTS grant from the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VAOT), the school has made progress in creating an environment that allows students to walk to school safely and in creating walking activities for those who live farther away from school.
VAOT recently awarded Jericho Elementary School $148,300 in SRTS program funds for crosswalk enhancements, the installation of a speed feedback sign on the highway next to the school and the construction of 1,000 feet of sidewalk linking the school to a nearby neighborhood.
Since 2005, Jericho Elementary has organized Walking Wednesdays to encourage its students to walk to school. Each October, International Walk to School Day marks the first Walking Wednesday, which continues every Wednesday until Thanksgiving break and resumes again in early April. For those students who live too far from school to walk or bicycle there, the school created a park and walk activity, which allows parents to drop off their children along one of three different routes. Parent volunteers lead the students on a walk to school and wear safety vests to ensure their visibility to both the children and drivers. In the future, the school would like to start its Walking Wednesdays before October.
Recently, the school has received funding through the VAOT SRTS program to continue the non- infrastructure activities. The SRTS organizers have planned an evening seminar in spring 2008 designed for parents, teachers and community members. The topics of these seminars will be pedestrian-related safety issues, such as the safe use of backpacks and motorists’ obedience of the speed limit. In terms of motorist safety, the school is organizing its efforts in an attempt to reduce the speed limit of the main roads around the school from 35 to 25 miles per hour.
Because of school staff changes and a decrease in parent involvement, the fall 2007 Walking Wednesday did not have as many children walking to school as the fall 2006 event. Jericho Elementary parents and staff want to stress the importance of a healthy lifestyle to the students, and SRTS organizers will continue the program with the goal of encouraging students to walk or bicycle to school every day. One event organizers are planning is a mileage club, slated to start in spring 2008. The club will be open to all students and has them track their mileage any time they walk somewhere. Those students who log the most miles will be recognized by the school as dedicated pedestrians.
Also, Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization offered to help with the traffic flow and accessibility issues that did not receive SRTS funding.
Distance Does Not Discourage SRTS Efforts
SRTS Organizer, Jericho Elementary School
90 Vermont Route 15
Jericho, VT 05465
Phone: (802) 899-2272