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Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:03

Geyser Road Elementary Seeks Safer Walking, Biking Route for Students

By | News

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Though students at Geyser Road Elementary are not currently allowed to walk or bike to school each morning, the city is taking its own steps to see that changed and make their route safer in the process.


The Saratoga Springs City Council unanimously voted to pursue federal funding from the Safe Routes to School program in the name of making the pedestrian commute to and from the elementary school more walker or biker-friendly by adding “safe connections along and across Geyser Road,” during their August 7 meeting.

Prior to the vote, the council was given a presentation by the city planning board's senior planner Kate Maynard, who noted that about 20 percent of the city's population lives in the southwest region; mainly in neighborhoods on the south side of Geyser Road. She added that the proximity to not only the elementary school but also Veteran's Memorial Park as reasons why safer access across Geyser should be considered.

“At present, the school district has a policy allowing each school to establish whether or not walking is recommended,” said Maynard. “In the case of Geyser Elementary, it was deemed not currently appropriate, so kids are not allowed to by that policy to either walk or bike to school.”

The “Safe Routes to School” program aims to improve the health and well-being of students in kindergarten all the way to eighth grade by encouraging them to walk or bike to school while ensuring they will be safe from motorists on busier streets. The program also hopes to encourage more active lifestyles in younger students by giving them the opportunity to walk or bike.

During the presentation, Maynard stressed the importance of applying for this federal money right away, before the program is consolidated.

“This is the last chance that we will have Safe Routes program application potential. The program is slated to be eliminated and will be folded into larger, overarching principles in terms of a program, so it won't function on its own as the Safe Routes to School program, and this is the last opportunity to look at this particular item specifically about walking and biking to school.”

There is currently $1.2 million in federal grants set aside for this region, but it was not revealed what the project involving Geyser Road Elementary could cost. The minimum application amount being considered is set at $50,000.

Superintendent Piccirillo spoke on behalf of the school district and thanked the city for the opportunity.

“It is great to be able to collaborate with the city,” stated Piccirillo. “Geyser Road was an excellent choice for this type of project. It's one of our schools that we do not allow students to access the campus because we feel it's not safe. The city reached out to the district and engaged us. That's very important to us because we need to have a strong partnership of that nature.”

Piccirillo sees this as an opportunity to not only make Geyser Road Elementary more easily accessible, but also the rest of the buildings in the district.

“We hope that what this ends up being, for all of us, is a model to replicate out for future partnerships, but also replicate out for the district how best to go about developing Safe Routes to School-type of projects for all of our other buildings in the district,” said Piccirillo.

The city council would vote later in the evening to begin the process of obtaining the grant. Before the public comment period, where five members of the public would voice their support, Mayor Scott Johnson acknowledged that the Geyser Road School would give the city its best shot at federal money.

“I think it’s a wonderful partnership that we’ve developed with the school district,” stated Johnson. “Every school in the city has an argument to be made along the same lines, but [Geyser Road] was best for development because it also helps a sort of underserved segment of our community. It also gives us the best chance at receiving the grant.”

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