Moses Lake, Washington: Safety solutions are a community effort

Introduction

Because of its rural setting, Longview Elementary School and the Moses Lake community faced unique issues surrounding child safety and safer walking programs. A small number of students walk to school, and residents were concerned with the safety of the two main roads leading up to the school’s entrance. Parents and teachers and members of the Parent Teachers Association voiced concerns about safety conditions on the roads and took the initiative to work with the community in finding solutions.

Activities

Crossing guards participate in training.Initial efforts to create a safer walking environment began in May 2005 with the help of personnel from Safe Kids of Grant County and the Moses Lake Police Department, which placed and trained crossing guards at the intersections in front of the school. The crossing guards receive training at the beginning of the school year and then attend an additional training session one month into the school year. Because of the program’s ongoing support, the program remains in effect today.

Children listen to safety tips on their walking circuit.Building on the crossing guard strategy, the school staff and parents also saw the need for safer travel to and from school along Maple Street and Apple Street, the main school access roads. The Longview PTA was an important partner with the schools in the process of highlighting safe travel concerns and bringing the concerns to the attention of city and county officials. The combined voices and efforts succeeded in decreasing the speed limit during school hours on Maple Street.

In 2005, the school teamed up with the Moses Lake Trails Planning Team, which awarded the school a $7,000 grant to conduct a safety assessment of Maple and Apple Streets. The assessment underscored the school’s and parents’ concerns for safer travel to and from school. In light of these efforts, it became apparent that more money would be needed to enact the plan to create direct access to school grounds from the nearest neighborhood through a multi-use pathway and sidewalk to increase safer walking to and from school.

Aided by its strong partnership with Moses Lake Trails Planning Team, the Grant County Public Works and the City of Moses Lake Community Development Department, the school applied for federal Safe Routes to School program funding through the Washington Department of Transportation in 2006 to implement infrastructure improvements and to fund a school wide safety awareness event. In April 2006, the school received a total of $132,365, of which $8,900 was dedicated to educational components, $12,000 went to engineering and $111,465 went to construction. After receiving the funds, construction began of a multi-use pathway and a sidewalk on Maple Street and Apple Street, respectively. Additionally, the county contributed approximately $20,000 to install sidewalks on both sides of Apple Street.

In addition to these improvements, the school administration and staff, parents,
event, the school held a kick-off assembly on school grounds. Nurses, law enforcement officers and paramedics were present to discuss proper helmet use and pedestrian and crosswalk safety. In November 2006, the school held the school-wide safety circuit walk around the campus. Each station along the circuit was staffed by a member of the local fire department or law enforcement who discussed safety measures and safe crossing practices or led the children in actually crossing the street. After the completion of the circuit, all school members were rewarded with a water bottle and healthy snack.

To integrate and further enforce the safety practices the students learned, six times a year the school sends home various newsletters that emphasize safe transportation goals. The school also collaborates with law enforcement officials, who encourage parents to practice safe pick-up and drop-off procedures. Recently, the school district showed its support by allocating funds for flashing beacons, which were installed in 2006, at the school crosswalks.

Milestones

The immediate result of the community’s efforts is the sidewalk and multi-use path that connects the school and nearest neighborhood, providing a safer route for the estimated 50 children who walk to school at Longview Elementary. Additionally, the combined efforts of safety education and enforcement have decreased unsafe actions such as students crossing the street at undesignated areas to arrive at school. A major, but less tangible, outcome is an increase in the community’s sense of pride and ownership of the school. Longview Elementary has the only community playgrounds, and the new sidewalk and multi-use pathway provide increased and safer access to these playgrounds. In turn, community members feel connected to the school and take greater pride in and contribute to safety efforts.

Contact

Robbie Mason
Longview Elementary
9783 Apple Lane
Moses Lake, WA 98837 (509)766-2656
rmason@mlsd.wednet.edu