‘Safe Routes’ hitting the streets

FAIRMONT – It’s time, hopefully, to put away those snowboots and dig out some walking shoes. Safe Routes to School is getting ready to make its spring debut.

An orientation meeting for new and current chaperones will be held 8:15 a.m. Tuesday in the Community Education and Recreation office at Fairmont Elementary School. Safe Routes to School will begin the following week, on April 8, and continue every Tuesday through May.

According to Joe Burns, who helps coordinate the program, at least 10 volunteer chaperones are needed.

“We’ve got five different areas, and we try to have two at each station,” he said.

Some of the volunteers have been with the program since it began in 2009.

“We’d like to get more parents involved,” Burns said.

The program is part of the National Center for Safe Routes to School. Locally, efforts are focused on encouraging kindergarten through sixth-grade students who live within the radius of the elementary school where busing is not provided to walk to school. If enough interest is shown and adequate volunteers come forward, there is the possibility of expanding the program to seventh- and eighth-graders, Burns said.

Currently, all routes lead past the elementary school, St. John Vianney School and St. Paul Lutheran School.

The routes, clearly marked with signs, will remain the same and begin at:

o Bird Park.

o Holden Park on Washington Avenue and Day Street.

o The corner of Park Street and Blue Earth Avenue.

o Fairmont Aquatic Park.

“Last year, we had about 50 kids,” Burns said. “They developed a little brotherhood.”

While the social aspect of walking is important, the exercise children get also is vital.

Burns points to the number of vehicles dropping off children at the elementary school every day as another reason he hopes to build the number of walkers.

“We’d like to get rid of some of that congestion,” he said.