The Stow Munroe Falls Board of Education heard updates and concerns from the community at its monthly meeting Oct. 28 at Woodland Elementary School, including an update from Stow officials concerning the Safe Routes to School program.
Safe Routes to School is a national program funded by the federal government and administered by the Ohio Department of Transportation within the state.
The primary goal of the program is to provide safe routes for children to walk or bicycle to school and the potential benefits of the program are: Increasing physical activity in children; decreasing vehicle congestion around schools; decreasing fuel consumption/pollution. In order to be eligible to apply for these funds, the city was required to prepare a School Travel Plan which involved public input, parent surveys, and the coordination of city and school administration, City Council and the School Board. Engineering consultants were provided by ODOT to make recommendations on potential improvements that would increase the safety and remove potential impediments in the students' walking/bicycling routes.
"Safe Routes to School was totally completed in the middle of October with the final stripe painted and so they are heavily used," said City Engineer Jim McCleary said, who was accompanied by Planning Director Rob Kurtz.
McCleary said the first grant, which totaled around $211,000 for construction, paid for the first project at the intersection of Stow and Call roads, which was built in May and completed when school let out. McCleary said the city picked up the additional $20,000 to finish the project.
The city of Stow was awarded a total of $700,655 in grant money from ODOT through the Safe Routes to School Program since 2009. As students returned to school this year, many of them found improvements such as new sidewalks or enhanced relocated crosswalks that will provide additional safety during their journey to school.
Four other projects were completed over the summer, including a new crosswalk on the corner of Hanna Road.
Busing Concerns raised
Bus driver Tom Luneke also raised concerns about the busing situation in the district, saying that the district has been "farming out" the bus drivers and has been more concerned about money rather than students' safety.
"You go and give us up. Then you sell the buses and then later on you decide 'Well let's go back. This isn't any good. It isn't working like it did in Columbus or like it did in Tallmadge' and then you go back and you got the buses. Get charged twice as much to buy the buses. You can't afford to go back," Luneke said. "Now why in the world do you think this is a good thing for our children, which is number one?"
Superintendent Russ Jones said while the Board has the responsibility to be frugal with the taxpayers' dollars, the companies the district has been working with are very concerned for safety.
"That is what these companies really are focused on because they do this as their primary core work," he said. "They don't want to come in and hire 60 new bus drivers. They're going to hire the same people. They're going to hire our people."