ST. PAUL, Minn. – Rochester Public Schools is one of six Minnesota public school districts that will benefit from more than $1 million in Safe Routes to Schools local coordinator funding grants to help promote safe walking and bicycling education in schools, the Minnesota Department of Transportation said today.
Other grant recipients include Saint Paul Public Schools, South Saint Paul Public Schools, Grand Rapids Public Schools, New Ulm Public Schools and Richfield Public Schools.
The funding will allow the school districts to launch a three-year effort with MnDOT to support Safe Routes to School programming. Districts can use the funds to hire staff, convene a team, prioritize strategies and implement solutions that fit their local need. Local coordinators will develop engagement events, train crossing guards and student patrols, and help increase walking and bicycling education in schools.
Rochester received $210,000 for a fulltime coordinator to work with 11 elementary schools to include these types of activities:
- Implement MN’s Walk! Bike! Fun! curriculum for all kids to learn how to ride a bicycle and safety skills
- Host Bike Rodeos (safety clinics)
- Participate in international Walk And Bike to School days and Minnesota’s Winter Walk to School Day
- Parent education for kids walking and bicycling to school
- Implementing MnDOT Crossing Guard training
- Identify recommended routes to school for walkers and bikers
- Establish Walking School Buses
- Implement the People Friendly Driver program
- Develop encouragement events and programs to reward children who walk or bicycle to school
- Work with city of Rochester to use their Safe Routes to School funds for engineering improvements
“Increasing the safety of children walking and biking not only improves health, but school attendance and academic achievement as well,” said Dave Cowan, MnDOT Safe Routes coordinator. ”Many school districts have a strong desire to support Safe Routes strategies, but limited staff time and resources are challenges. A local coordinator can transform school culture around walking and biking, ensuring more students arrive to school focused and ready to learn.”
Safe Routes to School is an international program to increase physical activity, improve health and reduce traffic congestion around schools by making it safer and easier for students to walk and bicycle to school.
MnDOT has funded more than 450 Safe Routes plans and 140 infrastructure projects across the state since 2006. Funded communities encouraged MnDOT to create funding for local coordinators to help schools implement strategies to make it safer and easier for students to get to school using the Safe Routes program as a framework.
MnDOT awarded $2.3 million in Safe Routes to School planning assistance and infrastructure grants in April 2019. These grants are funded with federal Safe Routes to School dollars.
Since 2005, MnDOT awarded more than $38 million in federal and state funds to communities to support Safe Routes to School. The majority of funding was awarded for infrastructure projects. The remainder was allocated for programs and planning that promote walkable and bikeable communities.
More information on Safe Routes to School is available at www.mndot.gov/saferoutes.