Program encourages kids to walk to school
Through a joint effort, Unified School District 428 and the City of Great Bend want to encourage more kids to walk or ride their bikes to school, therefore being more active.
The program is the Kansas Safe Routes to Schools and is funded through the Kansas Department of Transportation. Schools and municipalities can team up to make improvements in infrastructure and signs to increase the number of students who pass on rides from parents, said Robert Winiecke, Great Bend city engineer.
But, he said, a school district must work with a city to be eligible and the USD 428 School Board voted to participate when it met Monday night.
After approval, the first step would have been to apply for a $15,000 grant to conduct a “needs study,” but Winiecke told the board this work has already been done in anticipation of the project. Next, the city will put in for a grant of up to $250,000 to make the improvements.
There is no matching requirement on the grant, so neither the city nor district are out any money, he said. All the funds would be channeled through the city.
The engineer stressed the work funded by the grant would be on city-owned property to and from schools. “We want to make a more direct path.”
The money would not cover work done on school grounds.
As for the school district’s responsibility, it has to track how many students walk or bike now through student and parent surveys. Follow-up studies must also be done to note any increases.
“We really haven’t seen a downside to this,” Superintendent Tom Vernon said.
“I think this is something that would benefit all of us,” said board member Jean Canvanaugh.
No one likes to think about a natural disaster happening, but the Unified School District 428 School Board Monday night took a step to be better prepared should the worst come to pass.
The board adopted a resolution supporting the Barton County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan. By opting into the plan, the district won’t have to create it’s own plan and, more importantly, be eligible for federal funds that could help make the district’s buildings safer.
“Barton County has done an excellent job in developing this plan,” said Dan Brungardt, district director of business operations during the board meeting Monday. The document was crafted by county officials and approved by the County Commission April 4.
What is hazard mitigation? These are actions taken to reduce the effects of natural hazards and a plan puts these into writing.
The plan includes a detailed characterization of natural hazards in Barton County; a risk assessment that describes potential losses to physical assets, people and operations; a set of goals, objectives, strategies and actions that will guide the county, and a detailed method for implementing and monitoring it.
The commission may have approved the plan in April, but there was a lot of time involved, said county Emergency Management Director Amy Miller. “We worked on it off and on for two years.”
On Oct. 30, 2000, the president signed the Disaster Mitigation Act. Among its other features, the law established a requirement that to remain eligible for federal disaster assistance and grant funds through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, local and State governments must develop and adopt Hazard Mitigation Plans.
However, Miller said, FEMA allowed one government entity to create a plan and share it with others, thus the Barton County plan. Now, all the cities, school districts and Barton Community College can approve a resolution and be covered. Otherwise, she said, they have to come up with their own.
The plan is good for five years, Miller said. After that, it will have to be updated to include any projects that might qualify for FEMA help.
For USD 428, this means money could be available for future construction, Brungardt said. Looking at Kansas Water Office population trend data through 2040, it is likely Great Bend will continue grow slowly over the next 32 years at about 0.31 percent annually. This could mean more students and possibly the need for new buildings.
In any case, the federal money will help pay for new tornado safe rooms. The district is looking at a long-range plan to research the development and funding to build such structures by the end of 2016.
FEMA funds are given on a cost-share basis, Miller said. Normally, the feds cover 75 percent of a project and the local government 25 percent.
Miller said the numerous county governing bodies are slowly getting around to approving the plan.