14 Sep 2014
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Paving the Way for Safe Routes to School in Lexington

The town plans to use an MAPC wellness grant received earlier this week to study school zones and achieve 100 percent enrollment among its public schools in the Massachusetts Safe Routes to School program.

Paving the Way for Safe Routes to School in Lexington

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) earlier this week announced awarding Lexington a $6,800 wellness grant as part of the Middlesex Community Transformation Grant.

According to Judy Crocker, the town’s Safe Routes to School coordinator and author of the grant, Lexington will use those funds to commission of study of the town’s school zones and reach 100 percent Safe Routes enrollment among the Lexington Public Schools.

The Massachusetts Safe Routes to School program provides resources and educational tools to promote walking and bicycling as ways to get to and from school. Lexington’s model, however, extends to students who are bused, students who carpool and even students who are driven.

“No matter how you get to school," said Crocker, "We want you to be safe."

As of Thursday, Feb. 27, eight of Lexington’s nine public schools were enrolled in Safe Routes to School, according to Crocker, who said Lexington High signed on earlier this week and Harrington Elementary is also expected to come aboard.

As for the grant monies – provided under a Middlesex Community Transformation Grant – Crocker said those funds will be used to commission a study of the town’s school zones.

“School zones are great if used properly, as a traffic calming measure. Right now, our zones are dated: Some have too much signage, some have not enough, our signs aren’t consistent,” said Croker. “We have eight school zones in Lexington, so let’s make all the signs the same. That way when they’re uniform, they’ll have consistency and know what they’re seeing. They can spend less time reading and it will become more like muscle memory.”

The the Department of Public Works will manage the project. The study, to be performed by WorldTech, is expected to commence sometime this spring – after most of the snow clears and before school lets out. Any improvements would be likely to come after capital funding is approved by 2014's annual Town Meeting.

About the Grant

Lexington’s wellness grant was one of six in Middlesex County, awarded to communities that do not receive Mass in Motion funding from the Department of Public Health, according to the press release.

“MAPC is pleased to be able to offer this opportunity,” Joel Barrera, deputy director of MAPC, said in the press release announcing the grant award. “These wellness grants bring the prevention and wellness work of the Community Transformation Grant to more Middlesex municipalities.”

Local legislators applauded the health and educational benefits afforded by the grant, according to the press release.

“Lexington residents will reap the benefits of the Safe Routes to School Program through the increase in opportunities for daily physical activity in walking and biking, which are easy and fundamental steps toward good health,” said state Sen. Ken Donnelly, D-Arlington.

Said state Rep. Jay Kaufman, D-Lexington: “By ensuring that our children have safe walking routes to school, we not only integrate important daily physical activity into their lives, but we also increase their attention span and focus in the classroom.”

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