Las Vegas Sun

July 31, 2014

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District asks parents to park, walk students to school

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Home News

William Lummis Elementary fifth-grader Morgan Calder, center, walks down Hillpointe Road to school with her parents Marsha and Craig Calder on Monday. This is designated a safe route for parents to park near schools without causing traffic congestion.

The traffic around schools in the morning is the worst.

That's the sentiment of most parents, including Jennifer Jones. She was interviewed as she held her daughter's hand and waited for the parents who were driving into the parking lot of Lummis Elementary School to drop off their children.

"It's like a flash flood of cars; it's insane for about 15 minutes, then suddenly everyone is gone," she said.

To ease the amount of traffic around schools in the mornings, the Clark County School District is participating in a pilot program that encourages parents to park a few blocks away from the school and walk with their children the rest of the way. At the end of the year, if the program is successful among the schools in the pilot program, then it will become a districtwide program.

The Safe Routes to School program is a national program that the school district is starting this year after receiving $185,868 in federal grant money through the Nevada Department of Transportation.

Members of Look Out Kids About, a local coalition of parents and government leaders dedicated to safety for kids, applied for the grant.

Bill Story, the state Safe Routes to School coordinator, said the program is meant to educate parents and students about the safest routes to school: routes that have crossing guards, do not pass through private land and are bike friendly.

"It isn't just a safety program," Story said. "It also addresses the problem of obesity. We're encouraging kids to walk and ride their bikes to school."

Although not all schools will be part of this year's pilot program, safe routes for all schools can be found by visiting saferoutesinfo.org.

Spreading the word about less traffic congestion will be accomplished by appealing to parents through Parent Teacher Associations and Parent Teacher Organizations, said Maggie Saunders, the traffic safety coordinator for the school district.

"We need to reduce the traffic around the schools," Saunders said. "It gets very dangerous with kids trying to dart through cars to get to school. Sometimes parents will drop their kids off across the street and want them to cross the crazy traffic."

Many times school crossing guards are not right by the schools, but are stationed at dangerous intersections across the valley.

And crossing guards are short this year with the opening of new schools, said Helen Lawhon, who supervises the crossing guards for the city of Las Vegas.

"I'm nervous for those students who are waiting at cross streets for their crossing guard, but that crossing guard didn't come back after the summer break," she said. "We're focusing on filling those positions first, then we'll concentrate on the 40 to 70 other locations the School District wants us to be at."

When crossing guards are in short supply, Saunders recommend that parents walk with their children if they can, and that they give themselves more time.

"Let it be a relaxing commute in the mornings," she said. "Walk with your children if you can, it will be a great way to exercise, reduce traffic and reduce pollution."

Jenny Davis is a reporter for the Home News. She can be reached at 990-8921 or [email protected].

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