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Safe Routes committee points out the way

For parents of children who walk or ride their bicycles to school, CMSD has maps outlining preferred routes.

The maps will help children in nearly 70 PreK-8 schools navigate traffic and other hazards. (Find your school's map.)

The Safe Routes to School program, a partnership between the District, city government and safety advocates, developed the maps. That was after program Coordinator Calley Mersmann, city planners, Cleveland Building and Housing staff and consultants walked the neighborhoods around each school, scouting hazards.

“We will be encouraging children to use those routes and encouraging people who live and work along those routes to keep an eye on them,” Mersmann said.

Cleveland joined the nationwide Safe Routes movement as a district last year. The goal was to develop a plan that could leverage financial assistance for traffic and other safety improvements districtwide.

The plan still needs official approval from the city, schools and the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, but Cleveland’s program has already received $460,000 from the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Most of the money will pay for “mid-block” safety measures near eight schools. Spots where children cross between intersections will receive flashing signals, highly visible crosswalks and ADA-accessible curb ramps. The funding will also provide lighting for a walkway near Daniel E. Morgan School, located on Morris Court near East 89th St. 

Mersmann and a Safe Routes committee also are pursuing additional projects that could be completed at little expense.

Some of those include:

• Recruiting parent and community volunteers who will position themselves as "corner captains" along routes to five Slavic Village schools – Mound, Willow, Warner Girls’ Leadership Academy, Miles Park and Fullerton – and make sure children are safe. Mersmann said the volunteers’ will provide a friendly presence on the way to school and assist students in getting to class safely and on time.

• Designating narrow streets around Willow School, located on Glazier Avenue, for one-way traffic during arrival and dismissal times. City planners have approved the change, which is designed to relieve traffic congestion.

• Encouraging schools to form student safety patrols.

• Urging businesses and residents to clear snow from their walkways so children have a clear path to school.

• Continuing bicycle safety instruction at six schools that piloted the program in second-grade physical-education classes last spring.

Physical-education teacher Gretchen Tucholski taught bicycle safety to 43 students in two classes at Charles Dickens School, located on Corlett Avenue near East 131st Street.

She said getting across all the necessary points in five lessons was difficult, especially when seven of the children had difficulty even balancing a bike. But in the end all but one could ride, and she has noticed them counseling peers on unsafe riding habits.

“They’re correcting each other,” she said. “They’re teachers to each other.”

Mersmann and Alison Black, site coordinator at Case School, knocked on doors with Case staff and other volunteers within a mile of the school, which is at East 40th Street and Superior Avenue. Black said many parents and caregivers said their children have concerns, which include passing vacant industrial buildings.

Black said she and Principal Brandee Carson-Jones have discussed options such as starting a safety patrol to guard crosswalks or organizing a “walking school bus” of parents who would escort children to school.

“We want to make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can” to eliminate barriers to attending school, Black said.