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Safe Routes spreads to all district elementary schools

Wauwatosa school children cross at Honey Creek and Wisconsin Avenue.  Safe Routes to School will be available at all schools.

Wauwatosa school children cross at Honey Creek and Wisconsin Avenue. Safe Routes to School will be available at all schools. Photo By Mary Catanese

April 29, 2014

Sarah Lerand is the first person to tell her Safe Routes to School liaisons to be patient.

"Nothing happens quickly," Lerand said, noting the district's lack of sidewalks, congested traffic and other barriers to students walking or biking to school.

Her patience is paying off. Since becoming McKinley Elementary School's SRTS coordinator in 2010, Lerand has helped survey parents, create walking school bus routes and receive federal grant money.

One grant has helped fund speed radar signs on Swan Boulevard, North Avenue and Wauwatosa Avenue. It's also equipped crossing guards with tools to increase their visibility, like safety cones and emergency kits.

Lerand also has spread the message.

Every elementary school within the district, except Montessori, now has a SRTS liaison. The programs are working with school parent-teacher associations and principals, making them even stronger.

"Our Wauwatosa schools were not intended for children to be dropped off at. They are placed in neighborhoods that are a walkable distance," Lerand said.

McKinley will receive a consultant to address the route between McKinley and Whitman through its grant. Lerand said many students who participate in walking programs at the elementary school do not do so at the middle school level.

SRTS liaisons from McKinley, Roosevelt, Lincoln, Madison and Wilson/STEM discussed walking barriers and other general questions at the latest districtwide SRTS meeting last week.

One of those issues centered on the district's lack of sidewalks.

"As a program we are an advocate for sidewalks but we also are realistic and need to all work together to find the best solution," Lerand said.

Madison, Eisenhower, Whitman Middle School and Wauwatosa West High School do not have sidewalks adjacent to the school.

In a February, 2013, survey, parents said not having sidewalks was the No. 1 barrier to not allowing kids to walk to school.

"One of the key things is to make sure parents contact alderman and say, 'We want them,'" said Alderman Jeff Roznowski, who has worked with with SRTS at McKinley. His children are students there.

Another barrier to kids walking to school is traffic congestion during school pick up and drop off.

Lerand recently created a "hug and go" system at McKinley to encourage what she calls an "active drop-off." Other parent liaisons have created temporary one-way signs to create a driving pattern around the school block.

"Now we're seeing more people letting their kids walk because that block around school isn't so crazy," Lerand said.

National Bike or Walk to School Day is May 7.

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