Last fall, in the rural community of Winton, California, there was lot of excitement building around walking, bicycling and Safe Routes to School. Winton is a small town with two schools less than two miles apart from each other, and parents and community members had been frustrated about the congestion that was created when schools released students at the end of the day. Parents wanted to be able to walk or bicycle to school with their children, but couldn’t because of a lack of sidewalks and infrastructure. The district needed a solution.
“We needed a way to promote safety in the community and build awareness and support for walking and bicycling to school,” explained Kristi Boesch, an administrator on special assignment working for the Winton school district.
The district purchased bikes, helmets and locks to provide to low-income students so they could bicycle to school.
Stephanie Nathan, a supervising health educator at the Merced County Department of Public Health, realized it was a great opportunity to use the build-your-own school district policy tool released by Safe Routes Partnership and ChangeLab Solutions. The tool walks users through a series of policy options to help you build your own customized Safe Routes to School policy.
“The tool made my job a lot easier,” Nathan said. “Prior to finding the tool, it was harder to figure out what appropriate language to use. I was mostly Googling and looking at other district Safe Routes to School policies. If you're not a pro policy developer, you don't know the strongest language to use, so it was helpful to see options for certain categories based on how strong the policy language was – that helped me gauge what our district was ready for.”
With the district policy builder, it only took Nathan a couple hours to put together what she was confident was a strong policy.
“Safe Routes to School is something we’re going to continue to support because we want to promote safety and healthy lifestyle. Many families have only one car, so moms are walking kids to school. This program is helping build awareness in community to make sure it’s safe,” said Boesch.
Boesch and Nathan are pleased to see growing support for walking and bicycling among the school community and students. David, a 2nd grader, used to keep his bike at his uncle’s house. Now he rides his bike to school every single day – and couldn’t be happier. “I had to find my helmet, but I finally found it under my bed, and my mom brought my bike home from my uncle’s,” said David.
Congrats to Winton School District for making Safe Routes to School part of ongoing promotion of a healthy lifestyle and a safer community, and making kids more conscientious of health and what it means to live a healthy life.
Are you working to create a Safe Routes to School district policy? The build-your-own policy workbook will walk you through a series of policy options to help you build your own customized Safe Routes to School policy, which you can download and use in your community.