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Connecting the Trip to School with Safety, Health, Community and Choice

When Karolyn Roebuck became the Grants, Testing and Compliance Coordinator for the Cass Lake-Bena School District (CLBS), she quickly saw a need that the school district had been trying to address for many years – a safer route for students to be able to walk and bike to school. The district serves a high poverty (84%, 2010) student population, with most students bussing to school, and others walking or riding bikes on a narrow trail with little or no shoulder paralleling a busy highway.

“Let’s apply for a planning grant to make sure all connections and needs assessments are done to be able to move forward,” was Karolyn’s recommendation to school administrators, after contacting Tad Erickson, R5DC Regional Planner, to apply for a SRTS Planning Grant. She knew that her goal to sustain a project through this planning process would build capacity through partnerships and working together, resulting in more success. “Everyone made a commitment to see things through, from the school district, to the city, to the Leech Lake Tribe, to the county, and others.”

“It was very critical that R5DC guided us through the process to have a really good plan, giving us the opportunity to get a grant to fund the bike and walking trail,” stated Karolyn, noting that the trail is on schedule for completion by fall, 2017.

“This has led us to work together on other projects,” because “Safe Routes to Schools connects with goals of increasing physical activity in a safe way,” said Karolyn. Chosen as one of four schools in MN for a MN BCBS Health Learning Connection Pilot, now in its third year with a focus on health, physical exercise and learning, administrators already had increased awareness from the SRTS process, and quickly approved extra P.E. and Health classes.

Going through R5DC to develop a sound SRTS plan catalyzed the community, according to Karolyn. “If we can have better opportunities for students, community members, families, it’s exciting. A lot of great people are vested.”

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