When students in Franklin want to cross State Road 44 to walk or ride a bike to school, they don’t always cross at a crosswalk or with a crossing guard.
Bill Doty, director of operations for Franklin schools, has seen students riding their bikes against traffic outside Northwood Elementary School and Franklin Community Middle School.
He is working with the city to get a grant that could pay for infrastructure such as sidewalks or trails to make it easier for kids to get to school.
A crossing guard could be hired to help shepherd students across busy intersections. Or a stoplight could be installed at an intersection to allow kids to cross.
“We know there are students who bike and walk to school,” Doty said. “We know they need a place to ride safely.”
First, the Franklin school district must demonstrate that it needs the grant.
Administrators are seeking $75,000 as a planning grant first from the National Center for Safe Routes to School.
The money will be used to pay an engineering firm to decide where a bike trail should go and where students cross the most.
A second grant of up to $250,000 would pay for the infrastructure for the safest routes to school, Doty said.
Northwood and the middle school likely have the most walkers and bikers. Parent surveys were posted on school websites to see which students in kindergarten through eighth grade walk or bike to school, Doty said.
Those two schools are on one of the busiest streets in the city, U.S. 31.
Students may need to cross the highway to get to school, or they might use smaller neighborhood streets behind the schools to get to class safely.
Katie Crites, principal at Northwood, estimated that about 10 students walk or bike to school daily. She said most live along Walnut and Clark streets, which touch the school’s property, Crites said.
Updating infrastructure could allow more students to get themselves to school, she said.
For example, more kids could cross Main Street at Walnut or Clark if Main had a safe way to cross, Crites said.
Custer Baker Intermediate School and Creekside Elementary School are on State Road 44.
One student walks to school at Creekside, Principal Mark Heiden said.
No sidewalks or bike lanes can lead to the school, he said.
Even if only one student chooses to avoid the bus and get to school on a bike, that child deserves to be protected, Doty said.
“If you look at making improvements across the board, a lot has to be about safety,” he said.
Educators are also touting the health benefits of walking and biking to school. If more students walked or biked to school, they would get exercise and be healthier, Doty said.
“Students who are active and healthy perform better in school,” he said.