More than 300 Waggoner Road Middle School students, along with city and district officials, gathered in front of the school Tuesday to promote the Safe Routes to School program and acknowledge International Walk to School Month.

More than 300 Waggoner Road Middle School students, along with city and district officials, gathered in front of the school Tuesday to promote the Safe Routes to School program and acknowledge International Walk to School Month.

Monica DeBrock and Mark Waite, members of Sustainable Reynoldsburg and coordinators of Reynoldsburg's Safe Routes to School program, said they hope to acquire grants to establish such a program for kindergarten through eighth-grade classes.

DeBrock said the grant application is due Nov. 2 to the Ohio Department of Transportation.

ODOT handles the federal money allocated to the state for Safe Routes to School, which was established in 2005 as part of the federal transportation bill.

She said the first step in the process is to apply for a travel plan grant that, if approved, will be used to map out safe routes to five schools: Rosehill Road, French Run and Herbert Mills elementary schools, and the Waggoner Road junior high and middle schools.

The grants could amount to up to $1,000 for each school, money that will be used to establish a Safe Routes travel plan itself for each school, according to DeBrock.

"Not only will we get $1,000 to create the travel plan, we will receive engineering services to help us with the plan," she said. "The biggest thing is to make it safe, then make it fun -- and you have to make kids want to walk, you know, a half a mile to school.

"It won't be just one plan, it will be multiple plans, different routes, bike routes from one neighborhood, sidewalks from another, and to encourage the act of transportation, the walking and the biking," she said.

DeBrock said the second part of the process after the travel plans have been completed is to apply for another grant that, if awarded, could provide up to $500,000 to be used for the actual infrastructure improvements to create the travel routes.

Superintendent Steve Dackin said a successful Safe Routes program will involve the entire community.

"Biking and walking encourages a lifetime of enjoyment," he said. "Our schools are a great resource to the community and volunteer efforts like the Reynoldsburg Safe Routes to School program are good for all of Reynoldsburg."

Mayor Brad McCloud said the city remains a strong supporter of the Safe Routes to School program.

"Safe Routes to School supports the community and our students by offering answers and solutions to the difficult problem of transportation we currently face in our school district," McCloud said.

"Be establishing the good habits of walking and biking early on, our children will be better prepared for a future of healthy choices -- maybe walking the Appalachian Trail someday," he said.

dowen@thisweeknews.com