In an effort to encourage students to walk or bike to school, the Ohio Department of Transportation is teaming up with school districts across the state for Safe Routes to School.
It's designed to assist communities in developing and implementing programs that encourage children in grades K-8 to walk or bike to school safely.
Jason Sherman, Delaware schools director of facilities and transportation, said Safe Routes to Schools and the grant money it provides help the district tackle the barriers that prevent students from walking and cycling to school.
"The program is designed to help improve the health of our students by promoting a healthy, active lifestyle," Sherman said, "and outside of the obvious health benefits, we can reduce traffic congestion at the schools and cut down on emissions."
A committee of teachers, city engineers, law-enforcement officers and school board members will put together a travel plan for the buildings in the northwest area of the city, including Smith and Carlisle elementary schools and Dempsey Middle School.
"We are targeting this area because there are a large number of students who are within walking distance of the schools," Sherman said.
The committee will conduct surveys with parents to find out if their children walk to school, and if they don't, what the district could do to encourage them to start walking or cycling.
"If a parent doesn't feel like it's safe for their student to walk to school because of the speed of the streets or lack of crosswalks, those are things we want to resolve so that they can begin to walk to school," Sherman said.
Sherman said there are obvious barriers such as safety, but weather also plays a big part in preventing students from walking.
"The safety of our students needs to come first and we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to provide a safe route to school, with properly marked crosswalks and decent sidewalks," he said.
Grant money will be given for specific projects that districts have identified as barriers to their students walking or biking to school. Districts must have a travel plan in effect in order to receive money.
"One district had plenty of bike racks for their students to cycle to school, but the students had no place to put their helmets once they got to school," he said. "They used grant money to purchase cubbies for students to use."
The committee will gather data in the spring and fall and hopes to have a school travel plan by the end of fall.
"We want to improve the safe access into our schools and encourage an active lifestyle in our students," Sherman said.