Towns get grant to improve pedestrian safety
Chevy Chase View, Kensington encourage students to walk to school
The towns of Kensington and Chevy Chase View have received a $101,300 grant from the State Highway Administration to fund sidewalk improvements and encourage kids to walk to school through the "Safe Routes to School" Program.
The grant, which will become available in January, will be up to the towns to distribute. The Safe Routes to School Program brings together parents, school administrators, teachers and community groups to improve the safety of children who walk or bicycle to school.
Principal Barbara Liess of Kensington Parkwood Elementary School said the school has been partnered with the program since last year. Earlier this year, she said, children were sent home with maps showing the safest routes for them to get to school based on crosswalks, sidewalks and crossing guards.
"We are mostly a walker school," said Liess, who added that as enrollment at Kensington Parkwood goes up, so too does the need for kids to walk or bike to school. The small parking lot at the school is getting crowded during pick up and drop offs, she said.
"We're trying to come up with ways to make [walking] safer and make parents more comfortable," Liess said, including starting a "Walking School Bus" program soon which will have children meet in a designated spot akin to a bus stop and then walk to school in groups.
"I know myself as a parent, I didn't want my kids to walk to school alone, but if they're walking with my neighbor's kids I feel more comfortable," Liess said.
Liess said walkers and bikers have increased this year, and the school even bought a new bike rack to accommodate bicycles.
Along with Kensington Parkwood Elementary, Holy Redeemer and Grace Episcopal Day School are targeted schools for the Safe Routes to School Program.
The application by the towns for the grant specified improvements along Connecticut Avenue, where the SHA has already designated $200,000 to design a missing stretch of sidewalk between Kensington and Chevy Chase View. Building that half-mile sidewalk will cost an estimated $1.22 million.