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Meetings to discuss schools planning start Wednesday

WILLMAR — Neighbors of Willmar’s elementary and middle schools are invited to attend a series of public meetings to discuss plans to improve safety for children who walk or bike to school.

Meetings for the Safe Routes to Schools plans begin this week.

The Mid-Minnesota De-velopment Commission recently received a planning grant to help area schools develop plans to improve safety for children who walk or bike to school.

Separate plans will be developed for Kennedy Elementary, Roosevelt Elementary and Willmar Middle School, said Donn Winkler, executive director of the MMDC. High schools are not eligible for the grant.

The public meeting for Kennedy Elementary’s plan is at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in the school’s media center.

The meeting for Roosevelt Elementary will be at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the school’s music room.

The Middle School meeting will be at 3:30 p.m. March 6 in Room 142.

Winkler said the planning grants will be used to develop plans for safe routes for kids and encourage their use. Future grants may be available to help remove obstacles to walking or biking to school. MMDC is providing consulting services for the plans. The Willmar School District, the Willmar Police Department, the city and other agencies will also be involved in developing the plans.

The three planning committees have already walked the neighborhoods around each school, looking at possible obstacles, Winkler said.

To prepare for the public meetings, the committees have collected motor vehicle crash data from areas around the schools and observed traffic patterns around the schools at the beginning and end of the school day.

After hearing from neighbors, parents and others in the public meetings, the committees will develop their plans and consider applying for grants for infrastructure improvements or staff training.

It may be possible to work with the city and school district to make some of the improvements without obtaining grants, Winkler said.

Some possible fixes could be trail development, flashing lights to warn of students on major streets, sidewalk development or equipment for crossing guards or police.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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