Reynoldsburg parents are joining forces to participate in the first "School Pool" program coordinated by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.

Reynoldsburg parents are joining forces to participate in the first "School Pool" program coordinated by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC).

In conjunction with the Reynoldsburg Safe Routes to Schools program and parent-teacher groups, students who attend Waggoner Road Middle School, Waggoner Road Junior High and French Run Elementary School will be the first to participate in a new program designed to transport children to these schools.

Janet Berardi, MORPC senior outreach coordinator, said MORPC has sponsored a RideSolutions program since the 1980s designed to help people get back and forth to work each day. She said the similar School Pool program is the first of its kind for MORPC.

Since the district's 15.6-mill May levy failed, busing was cut this year to Taylor Road Elementary, Graham Road Elementary and the high school. The busing that remains is provided only to students who live outside a two-mile radius from their schools.

Berardi said MOPRC officials began looking at what it could do to help in July and began defining who they could talk about becoming involved. The list included the Reynoldsburg Safe Routes to School program and parent-teacher groups.

"We put the program together to answer the problem of how would the parents get their kids to school," she said.

She said the main goal of the School Pool program is to provide information to parents and guardians so they can form carpools and assist students in finding biking or walking companions for a safer trip to school.

She said MORPC used special computer software to compile the lists, which were sent out the first week of December.

"We sent a letter to all parents (who have children attending the three schools involved) which included a match list of all parents in their area with children," she said.

The letter included an "opt out" provision for parents who did not want their information used; Berardi said about three dozen opted out.

"It's a voluntary program, not only for the parents but also the schools," she said. "We had three schools volunteer to participate."

Berardi said MORPC has donated the program and its assistance in coordinating it at no cost to the school district or anyone involved.

"This is just another way of saying, 'How can we combine our resources? How can we have the parents carpooling? How can we have the children, where it is safe, to be able to walk or bike, with a buddy?'" she said.

In the future, Berardi said, a survey will be sent out to determine what parents like or dislike about the program and what improvements, if any, might be needed.

"We offer this to all of the schools in Reynoldsburg, but three of the 10 schools are participating," she said. "Depending on how soon we can get data from other schools, we might be doing it for other schools next year.

"We're starting this with Reynoldsburg, but we're also right now in the process of actively looking for another school district to approach and talk to them about what we're doing for Reynoldsburg and how we can do it for them."

Berardi said she doesn't think MORPC could have chosen a better place to pilot School Pool than Reynoldsburg.

"All of the cooperation from everyone, the interest was there, the help, the resources were there -- Reynoldsburg is a wonderful community and they are very committed to their children," she said.

Monica DeBrock, a member of Sustainable Reynoldsburg and a coordinator of Reynoldsburg's Safe Routes to School program, said local families "have had to make many adjustments this year due to economics.

"Those families that are still struggling to find safe transportation for their kids now have another option with the School Pool program," DeBrock said. "They have a list of other families in their neighborhood that they can call and work a plan out, if they need it."

She said the Safe Routes to School program is awaiting word from the Ohio Department of Transportation on whether it will receive federal grant money to put together a plan that will map out safe routes to Rosehill Road, French Run and Herbert Mills elementary schools and the Waggoner Road junior high and middle schools.

Once the Safe Routes program has a travel plan mapped out for those schools, DeBrock said a second grant application will be submitted that, if awarded, could provide up to $500,000 to be used for the actual infrastructure improvements needed to create the travel routes.

More information about the School Pool program is available from MORPC's RideSolutions at 1-888-742-RIDE (7433) or online at www.morpc.org.