BEAUMONT, Texas — As students prepared to head back to school Tuesday, Beaumont City Council unanimously approved the resolution to apply for grants from TxDOT's "Safe Routes to School Infrastructure program."
The program administers funds for locally sponsored infrastructure projects to help make it easier for students to walk and bike to school. The resolution included projects within a two mile radius of Homer Drive, Guess, Caldwood, Charlton Pollard, Pietzsh-MacArthur and Blanchette Elementary, and Marshall and Martin Luther King Middle Schools.
About one fifth of the students at Charlton Pollard Elementary School walk to school and making improvements to the sidewalks would be one of the best things the city could do for students there according to principal Valencia Greenwood.
"We have about 100 children on this campus who walk home from school, to and from school everyday, it would help to definitely create a safer path for them to walk to school," Greenwood said.
She said the students normally walk toward the back of the school, where the homes are. There aren't many sidewalks in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Adding sidewalks, according to Greenwood, would help give parents peace of mind that their children are going to have a safe walk to school. More parents might even allow their children to walk if they had them.
Councilman W.L. Pate said there are 332 applications statewide. They should know if TxDOT is going to award the city some of their requests sometime in December.
Greenwood said it's something the school needs either way. She's currently in the process of submitting a letter of acknowledgement to TxDOT in support of the project.
"When you're making a decision about the safety of children, it's definitely one of the best decisions they could make," Greenwood said.
In the meantime, Beaumont Police Officer Carol Riley said all drivers need to be thinking about safety around schools. As both young children and college age students head back to school, she reminds people to adjust their routes accordingly.
Riley said to keep in mind kids are going to be excited, they may step out in the road. She wants people to be aware of school zones, watch your speed and avoid distractions. Distractions can mean more than just cell phones, she listed things like kids inside the vehicle, the radio, make-up and eating. You can be ticketed for any distractions from driving.
Riley advises parents of children who walk or ride their bikes to school to take the route with them before hand so they know what to expect. She said to talk to them about making eye contact with drivers, potential weather issues and a back-up route in case of construction.
"We can go over bicycle safety rules and walking and do all of these great things, but kids get distracted a lot easier than adults, and we as adults get distracted a lot," Riley said.
For bus riders, Riley said to remind students to stay six feet off the curb, or three really big steps. If they're going to cross intersections, make sure they know the driver sees them before crossing.
Riley stressed the importance of paying attention in school zones, even before and after the set times in the mornings and afternoons. She reminded that students sometimes arrive early, late or stay after for extracurricular activities.
"We as the adults and as the licensed drivers have to be proactive, and we have to watch out and take care of our younger citizens," she said.
Drivers should also remember to look out for school buses on the road. Riley said if the stop sign is out, do not pass, unless there is a defined median and you're traveling in the opposite direction. The median needs to keep kids from crossing that area, otherwise you must stop.
"Just be patient, wait for those kids to load and unload, and always remember there's always that kid who's running late, maybe trying to run and make the bus, just pay attention when you see school buses in the area," she said.
Beaumont Police Department, DPS troopers, school police officers and constables will all be patrolling with school back in session. Riley said they will be watching to make sure you're paying attention to the roadway, and to keep the kids safe.