Town officials, school district revisit Safe Routes program

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SOUTHWICK – At the Select Board meeting Tuesday night, Select Board Vice-Chairman Russ Fox informed the board that he and DPW Director Randy Brown are planning to meet with Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District representatives later in the month to discuss the Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) program.

A federally-funded program established in 2005 by Mass. Department of Transportation, the SRTS works with schools to increase transportation for children that are in elementary or middle school.

Powder Mill Road is one of the routes to school that could be part of the Safe Routes to School program. (WNG File Photo)

In order for a community to be a part of the Safe Routes program, the respective school district would need to initiate the program into the school system. Participation in the program would allow the school district to fix infrastructure issues that are two miles or less from an elementary or middle school in the district.

The Select Board has mentioned Depot Street, which is less than two miles from Powder Mill or Woodland School, as an infrastructure issue that could fit with the program. Since it’s so close to both schools, Depot Street is used by children who walk or bike to school.

At a meeting this past November, Fox brought it up for discussion with Superintendent Jen Willard. Fox noted that implementing the SRTS program affects the town’s budget, as it could help the town secure funding to help the district’s school resource officer as well as further enhance Advance Life Support tools that first responders would have access to at the schools.

According to Willard, the school district currently has a total of 39 walkers for all three schools in the district. Noting that it would be a year-long process with the SRTS program where the district would have to implement all of the initiatives to get students to walk to school, the district still may not be able to get the funding they want from the program once those initiatives have been complete.

When Fox and Brown do meet with the school district representatives in late February, they’re hoping that the school district will reconsider pursuing the SRTS program.

“Randy (Brown) thought that there was funding available,” said Fox. “If there’s funding there, we’d like to take advantage of that.”

Fox added that they’ll be working with the school district on scheduling a date in late February to meet with the Select Board.

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