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|Shady Grove Elementary tapped for safe routes program|
Ouachita Parish school system officials have picked the first school they want to improve with money from the state's safe routes to school program.
Pam Barton, supervisor of the parish school's grant department, said the school system will apply for a $300,000 grant for improvements at Shady Grove Elementary School in southern Ouachita Parish.
If awarded the grant, it would provide $250,000 for infrastructure improvements around the school to provide a better means for students to walk and ride their bicycles. Another $50,000 would be used to educate children about proper safety measures when walking and riding bikes to and from school.
She said local officials must provide an environment to encourage more students to walk and ride their bikes to school. She also said the program would provide proper sidewalks and safety education for students at Shady Grove to give them a safe environment.
The national safe routes to school program has allocated $612 million over a five-year period to states to implement safe routes. 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 are 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 will be reimbursed for their expenses.
Funding is 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 Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, which oversees the program for the state.
Schools interested in participating in the program must apply for funding with DOTD.
Barton said several parish schools want to participate in the safe routes to school program. She said the Ouachita Parish school system decided to seek funding for one school this year. Parish school officials plan to increase the number of schools that apply for funding each year.
Barton said Shady Grove was picked this year because parish engineer Don Harrison has conducted some preliminary engineering work for this school's project.
The Ouachita Parish Police Jury has given the school system its letter of support as it seeks grant funding from the program.