Bath Community Schools looking into Safe Routes to School program to spur youth exercise

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By Zachary Manning
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter

BATH — Bath Community Schools are looking into implementing a Safe Routes to School (SR2S) program to encourage students to exercise more.

According to the SR2S website, the three purposes of the program are to enable and encourage children in grades K-8 to walk and bike to school, to make walking and biking to school safer and more appealing, and to facilitate the planning, development, and implementation of projects and activities that will improve safety.

Three members of the Bath Board of Education at the March 28, 2016 meeting. Photo by Zachary Manning.

Three members of the Bath Board of Education at the March 28, 2016 meeting. Photo by Zachary Manning.

“Bath Community Schools supports a number of fitness programs encouraging students to exercise and participate in healthy activities. Safe Routes to School is another program that promotes student health and supports students walking and biking to school,” said Nancy Hawkins, Bath Community Schools board secretary. “It is great to see that the Bath community also supports the program. Walking and biking to school can be a safe way for children to be more active.”

Bath Community Schools are pursuing this to promote a healthier lifestyle for kids. It is not a major priority right now as they have pretty good sidewalks already, but they are open to supporting it.

“It would help promote healthy living, being active, safe routes for biking and walking, and conserving our natural resources by walking or riding bikes to school,” said Jake Huffman, superintendent of Bath Community Schools. “To this point though, it hasn’t been a district priority, as we already have a pretty good sidewalk system in town, though there is always room for improvement or expansion. We would be open to supporting the program if some external leadership was developed to promote the program.”

According to the SR2S website, there are six steps to get started in the SR2S program. The six steps are registering the school with the Michigan Fitness Foundation, designating a SR2S coordinator, establishing a SR2S team, assessing attitudes and behaviors related to walking and biking to school, assessing the safety of walking and biking routes to school, and developing a SR2S action plan. These six steps are an easy way to get started in the SR2S program.

The program would require leadership and school participation before it could get started. The program has seen increased support as more and more information is released.

“This has been a bigger push from Bath Township and the Bath Downtown Development Authority. It is typically a partnership between multiple entities and requires school participation. It would require leadership from a township, school, or community group, with participants from all,” said Huffman.

The program requires that a leadership team be put into place. According to the SR2S website, the members of the team will vary from school to school, but should include a school administrator, a representative from the local unit of government, teachers, parents, students, and a local law enforcement official.

Exercise is important for kids, because it allows them to lead healthy lifestyles. Kids are falling into routines of watching television or playing video games instead of exercising.

“Exercise is important for kids in order for them to lead healthy lifestyles. Most kids are falling into a routine of sitting in class, then sitting at home playing video games. Exercise combats the negative effects of all of that,” said Alex Gordon, personal trainer at the Eastern Michigan University Rec/IM.

The cost of the program can be helped through federal funding. According to the SR2S website, “federal funding for Safe Routes to School was re-authorized as part of the surface transportation bill (MAP-21) signed into law July 2012.” Every state has available funds to help communities implement plans to make walking and biking to school safer.

“The grants require a minimum of a 20 percent cost match for any projects,” said Huffman.

Bath Community Schools are open to discussion about the program with people who are interested in it. Some leadership would need to be formed before the program could be implemented.

“At this point we are open to discussions with those who are interested in seeing this happen in Bath, but some external leadership needs to be developed for it to move forward,” said Huffman.

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