Grant, community support secures bikes and helmets for SD2 students

2012-09-28T19:00:00Z 2012-09-28T22:22:48Z Grant, community support secures bikes and helmets for SD2 studentsBy ROB ROGERS rrogers@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Monday is National Walk and Bike to School Day and Kathy Aragon is ready.

In fact, a whole team of advocates for walking and biking to school and helping children get more exercise has been working for a year on raising awareness.

Aragon, a trustee for School District 2, has worked with SD2 administrator Brenda Koch and Darlene Tussing, alternative modes coordinator for the city of Billings, to help the community earn a state Department of Transportation Safe Routes to School grant.

The district won the $38,200 grant in April and has been working over the summer to put various programs in place. An additional $5,000 grant from Specialized Bikes was turned into $10,000 by Dean Cromwell at the Spoke Shop to purchase bikes for some SD2 students.

"It's a real neat thing," Aragon said.

First, the district offered $1,000 mini-grants to its schools. Each school was asked to submit a one-page form explaining how they'd spend the money to promote biking and walking and how they'll give away the Spoke Shop bike.

Every school that applied won the mini-grant — a total of 17 of the district's 30 schools, including 14 elementary schools and Riverside, Will James and Lewis and Clark middle schools.

With the extra money from Specialized and the Spoke Shop, the district was able to buy 34 Specialized bikes, two for each of the schools that applied for the mini-grant.

Part of this Safe Routes to Schools program includes a Billings Police Department awards program called "Caught-cha Being Safe."  

Billings officers will give out prizes — bike light kits, LED safety lights and other items — to kids they catch using safe traffic skills as they walk or bike to and from school.

The schools that won the mini-grants now have access to curriculum from the national safety group ThinkFirst that helps teachers work with their students to become more safety-minded when they're out on the road.

Also available are safe-bicycling workshops and courses offered through Journeys From Home Montana, a program sponsored by the state Department of Transportation.

Aragon's goal is to help students — and ultimately all motorists, bicyclists, walkers and even those in wheelchairs — to better share the road and to better help each other be safe. 

She hopes parents will work with their schools and the city to encourage safe biking and walking to school and that they'll make use of the resources now available to them.

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