Starkville, Mississippi, is a rural area with a population of about 22,000 citizens and home to Mississippi State University. The downtown streets of Starkville have had sidewalks since the 1940s, but they have not been maintained properly, resulting in their poor condition. The rest of the town lacks sidewalks or has isolated sidewalk segments that do not connect to the original ones built. Starkville does not have any neighborhood schools, and although there is a state law stating students do not have to be bussed to school, the Starkville School District elects to bus every student regardless of their proximity to school.
Starkville in Motion (SIM), a volunteer organization formed in 2005, is dedicated to increasing the number of bicycle and pedestrian paths in Starkville. In January 2007, SIM applied for a grant and received $1.5 million from Mississippi’s Department of Transportation (MDOT) to build a 3.4 mile multi-use path to connect the University, parks and other venues. With this grant secured, SIM began focusing on the areas directly around the neighborhood schools. In summer 2007, Starkville received $281,476 of federal Safe Routes to School funds from MDOT. This money will go to Ward-Stewart Elementary School (fourth and fifth grade), Henderson Intermediate School (sixth grade) and Armstrong Middle School (seventh and eighth grade). Ward-Stewart Elementary and Henderson Intermediate share a campus in the commercial area of town with several neighborhoods surrounding the area, all lacking sidewalks. Armstrong Middle, located a half mile south of Ward-Stewart Elementary and Henderson Intermediate, has no sidewalks leading directly to the middle school, but the surrounding area has some sidewalks. With the SRTS grant, the schools can construct a sidewalk and stripe bicycle lanes along the north and south corridor connecting several subdivisions to the schools. The money also will purchase caution signs to alert drivers that they are entering school zones. The Parent-Teacher Association has pledged its support to the SRTS project and to help educate the children. Of the SRTS funds awarded, $17,500 will be used for educational materials.
SIM geocoded the addresses of all fourth through eighth grade students to determine how many lived within a two mile radius of the schools. It was found that six percent of the students live within a half mile of their schools, 26 percent live within one mile, and 50 percent live within two miles of their schools. Of all the students capable of walking to school, two percent walk, and 0.2 percent bicycle. Most of the proposed infrastructure improvements will benefit students traveling to any of the three schools. SIM anticipates the number of children bicycling and walking to school will significantly increase once the proposed changes are made.
Chair, Safe Routes to School Committee
Starkville in Motion