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|Moore advocates program to make school routes safe|
Ouachita Parish police juror Pat Moore is collecting names of schools in Ouachita Parish that could benefit from the state's safe routes to school program.
During Monday's regular police jury meeting, Moore requested that police jurors determine which schools in their districts would be good candidates for the program. She recently attended the state safe routes to school conference, which is held every year to give out details about the program and encourage more agencies to participate in it.
The deadline to submit applications for the program this year is from January to March.
The purpose of the program is to "improve the health of children and the community by making walking and bicycling to school safer, easier and more enjoyable," according to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, which oversees the state's program.
She said there are about nine Ouachita Parish schools interested in participating in the program.
"If there is a school in your district that does not have proper sidewalks or needs improvements in this area, I suggest we ask the safe routes to schools coordinators to come down and give us an overview of the program," Moore said. "We need to know what they're looking for, and in addition, we can take them on tours of the schools and they can assess them."
She said both the Monroe City School Board and Ouachita Parish School Board should be in attendance at those events.
"I do think we have a very good shot for Shady Grove, but I don't want to look over other schools, because one thing they like to see is multiple schools," Moore said.
The national safe routes to school program has allocated $612 million to states to implement safe route projects over a five-year period. Louisiana will get $9.5 million over the course of those five years, or roughly $1.9 million each year.
The state awards the five-year grants, which is funded 100 percent by the federal government. The safe routes to school program is a reimbursement program, meaning local agencies must pay for all work and activities, and they will be reimbursed for their efforts.
Applicants can be school boards, local public works departments, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, or parish or state agencies.
Funding will be provided for projects that "create physical improvements to the infrastructure surrounding schools; reduce the speed of motor vehicle traffic; or establishes safer and easily accessible crossings, walkways, trails or bike paths," according to the DOTD website.
Funding also could be provided for educational purposes such as teaching children about bicycling and walking safety and launching driver safety campaigns in the vicinity of schools.
Police juror Mack Calhoun said there are several schools in his district that could benefit from the program. Those schools include Riser Middle School, West Ouachita High School, Calhoun Middle School, Central Elementary and Lenwil Elementary School.
"We've got a new ag building across the road at West Ouachita and I've been working with the school to lower the speed limit in that area," Calhoun said. "They're crossing this road continually eight hours a day to the ag building and back to the school."
In West Monroe, Moore said Ouachita Parish Schools officials indicated several schools could benefit, especially Riverbend Elementary.
So far, Shady Grove Elementary School and Jack Hayes Elementary School are at the top of the list of local schools that could benefit from this program, Moore said.