Local District Qualifies for Plan

ST. MARYS — A local school district found out on Friday that it qualified to develop a transportation plan through the state.

On Friday, St. Marys City Schools received notification from the Ohio Department of Transportation that it was selected to participate in the development of a School Travel Plan (STP) for the district.

An STP is a written document that “outlines a community’s intentions for enabling students to engage in active transportation (i.e. walking or bicycling) as they travel to and from school,” Business Manager Kurt Kuffner noted.

“A comprehensive School Travel Plan (STP) is created through a team-based approach that involves key community stakeholders and members of the public in both identifying barriers to active transportation and finding solutions to address them,” Kuffner said. “It will be up to members of the STP planning committee to identify what problems we face and how best to resolve those problems.”

Kuffner added the STP is a prerequisite to receiving any Safe Routes to Schools funding and is a planning tool for the community.

The district applied first for assistance through ODOT in February and was notified Friday morning about receiving the STP qualification. Also on Friday, Interim Superintendent Jerry Skiver completed the first step of the STP by signing a memorandum of understanding and mailing it to ODOT District 7 Coordinator Justin Yoh, who will facilitate the development of the STP for St. Marys.

“By completing an STP, our community will have a guiding document to assist in improving walking and bicycling conditions for students, including strategies for promoting and encouraging active transportation to school,” Kuffner said.

Skiver noted administrators have been meeting with ODOT representatives and have talked about possible STP elements.

“We talked about things we wanted to see in place,” he said. “We started dialogue to get those things done.”

One of the suggested elements was a possible walkway to/from the high school-middle school complex.

“We sat down with the Ohio Department of Transportation, and we discussed alternatives to make it safer to cross over the bridge,” Skiver said. “We could run a sidewalk extended from the parking lot across the grassy area so the kids would have a sidewalk that they could go across to that area to walk across the bridge. There would be markings for cars at each of those ramps so the cars would know it would be a crossing.”

He noted the state has studied similar traffic situations, such as along Sawmill Road in Columbus, where there is a pedestrian walking area.

“They have not had any issues,” Skiver said. “In lieu of adding on to the bridge, adding walking bridge, adding tunnel underneath, this is the only thing we could get them to do.”

The work would include “a lot of paint and signs,” he added.

Although the discussion included the elements of the walkway to the high school-middle school complex, the STP will also include elements relating to the other schools in the district, Kuffner said.

“This is not just about access to the new school campus, but also about safe access to the Primary and Intermediate school campuses, as well,” he said.

Kuffner noted the city of Wapakoneta prepared an STP in 2010. Wapakoneta’s plan included elements such as a sidewalk linking the Wapakoneta Family YMCA and St. Joseph School to Wapakoneta and Northridge Elementary and bike paths.