Basalt Elementary School promotes foot and pedal power | AspenTimes.com

Basalt Elementary School promotes foot and pedal power

Staff report

Basalt is working to establish safe routes for elementary school kids to walk or ride a bike to school. Special parking areas for parents and routes to school are designated for National Walk or Ride to School Day on Wednesday.

Basalt Elementary School children and their parents are being asked to get out of personal vehicles and walk or ride a bicycle to school for the remainder of May in a special event that launches Wednesday.

The school is participating in the National Walk and Bike to School Day and starting a program that provides incentives to families for children to walk or bike to school for the remainder of the month.

Assistant Principal Jennifer Ellsperman said the program promotes health, wellness and safety. The parking lot and circulation at Basalt Elementary School has been an issue for years, in large part because the student population nearly doubled about five years ago, Ellsperman said. The school is working on a master plan for its facilities and aims to improve the circulation and safety at the elementary school parking lot.

A survey conducted last year showed that 49 percent of respondents rode the bus, 38 percent arrived in private vehicles and the remainder walked or rode bicycles. Of the respondents, 70 percent live more than 2 miles away from the school and of them, 40 percent get to and from school in a private vehicle, according to data released by the school. Of the students who lived within 1 mile from the school, 80 percent arrived and left via a private vehicle. Ellsperman acknowledged that this finding was surprising.

The school wants to reduce private-vehicle use and received a Safe Routes to School grant from the state of Colorado to help promote walking and bike riding. Students will receive a frequent walker/rider card this week. They will get a circle punched for each day they ride a bike or walk to school during May. Children who ride buses also will receive credit.

"Hopefully, we'll get some new kids joining in," Ellsperman said.

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Students who have between 10 and 14 punches at the end of May will receive a prize, such as a bike bell compass, chain bracelet or bike lock. Those with 15 or more punches will be invited to a celebration party at an extra recess in late May. Among the students who ride and walk the most, two participants will be selected for the grand prize — a bicycle and a helmet. An anonymous donor and Mountain Sports Outlet of Glenwood Springs donated the grand prizes.

Ellsperman said the Safe Routes to School Coalition is organizing the event. There are representatives of the Basalt Police Department, the school, state Transportation Department and community at large. The committee members realize that elementary school students cannot ride or walk a long distance alone to school, so they are organizing drop-off locations for Wednesday's event. Parents can parks vehicles at Arbaney Park, Community Bank on Two Rivers Road, 7-Eleven, Swinging Bridge and St. Peter's Church in Elk Run. Parents are asked to ride or walk with their children from the drop-off points. Free coffee will be provided at each site.

There also will be community volunteers, including some middle school students, to accompany the elementary school children to school.

Ellsperman said parents in Willits and other neighborhoods that are far away from school are organizing group effort to get their children to school safely Wednesday.

Parents also will be asked to fill out a checklist at the drop-off sites to help the coalition determine what needs to be added to make safe a route to school. More signs and crosswalks are possibilities.