Pima County, Arizona: Safe Kids Tucson Trains Teachers and Encourages Students

Introduction

Safe Kids Tucson, through the Tucson Medical Center in Pima County, AZ, recently was awarded $40,790 in federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) funds to set up SRTS pedestrian and bicycle safety education and encouragement programs at seven schools in the county. These schools are Bloom Elementary School, Johnson Primary School, Lawrence Intermediate School, Rattlesnake Ridge Elementary School, Whitmore Elementary School, Keeling Elementary School and Davis Primary Magnet School.

Activities

The punch card used for the Walking School Bus Challenge.Since 2004, there has been a SRTS pilot program in place at eight local elementary schools in Pima County. The Pima County Bicycle and Pedestrian Program and the City of Tucson were awarded a Federal Transportation Enhancement grant to form the Pima County-Tucson SRTS program. The success of this pilot program led to Safe Kids Tucson applying for and receiving funds to bring the SRTS program to seven additional schools. In September 2007, Safe Kids Tucson was awarded $38,200 from the Arizona Department of Transportation’s SRTS program and an additional $2,590 from in-kind donations. The Safe Kids Tucson SRTS program has a twofold goal: to train teachers to integrate pedestrian and bicycle safety lessons into the existing curriculum and to expand the pilot program to schools outside the initial eight schools.

To choose the seven schools to implement SRTS programs, Safe Kids Tucson identified the schools within the area that they had a relationship with and would be amenable to organizing SRTS programs at their school. The seven schools chosen will participate in a uniform set of activities outlined by Safe Kids Tucson. Each of the seven elementary schools will participate in Walk and Roll to School Day in March 2008 and plans to participate in the October 2008 International Walk to School Day. Also, the Safe Kids Tucson program will implement a six weeklong Walking School Bus Challenge to kick off the same day as International Walk to School Day. For this challenge, the students will receive punch cards, and once the card has been punched five times, they are entered into a raffle and receive a new card. The punch card encourages children to walk to school regularly because the students do not know the days on which the punch cards will be marked. To let bus riders participate, they can walk around the school once or twice after the bus drops them off to qualify for a punch. And for those students who cannot walk or bicycle to school because of disabilities or because of before and after school care arrangements, they can participate by creating a poster or writing an essay to encourage bicycling and walking to school. At the end of the challenge, the students who have walked to school at least five times will be entered into a raffle to win prizes, such as a bicycle or a scooter. All participating students will receive an Olympic-style medal as well.

The school staff also will teach pedestrian and bicycle safety lessons to the students. Second grade teachers will be trained to teach pedestrian safety lessons and the fourth grade teachers will learn how to teach bicycle safety lessons. Another SRTS program activity will be a walkabout conducted by the Pima County SRTS coordinator and the Pima County Bicycle and Pedestrian program engineer. Using information from the walkabout, they will compile a report on the problems and proposed solutions needed to ensure that the children of Pima County have the safest routes for walking to school.

Milestones

Currently, Safe Kids Tucson is conducting parent surveys at the seven schools to determine the barriers to walking and bicycling to school, and what improvements need to be made for parents to allow their children to walk or bicycle to school. The data gained by the walkabout will be used in a SRTS application that Safe Kids Tucson and Pima County plan to submit for infrastructure funding by the 2009 funding cycle.

Contact

Donna Lewandowski
Safe Routes to School Coordinator
Pima County Department of Transportation
17 E. Pennington St. Tucson, AZ 85701
Phone: (520) 205-8309
Email: Donna.Lewandowski@dot.pima.gov