Each year we survey the candidates running for election to the School Board on topics related to PedNet’s transportation work, and share the results with our members.
The candidates running for the School Board this year are:
- James Whitt
- Jan Mees
- Paul Rainsberger
- Sarah Dubbert
- Joseph Toepke
1. PedNet Coalition advocates for the most basic forms of transportation: walking, biking, using a wheelchair, and taking the bus. As a School Board member, what role would you play in making transportation around schools safe and accessible for everyone?
A safe route for our students is a state law and as school board member and President of the Board we dedicate ourselves to making sure we provide the safety and security our students and parents demand. With all the new construction and additions to our schools we have taken into account the route students walk, how busses will get in and out of schools efficiently and we have been sure to add ADA accessibility to all of our structures.
The board directs the work of our safety and security officers to collaborate with city personnel and school administration to monitor school areas for safety of all students. The installation of speed limit and electronic speed signs, hiring school crossing guards, installing speed bumps, all can assist in the safety of all kids. Individual school site administrators must educate parents on pick up/drop off protocols, clearly delineate bus only lanes vs. riders/walkers.
I would assure that all efforts are made (in cooperation with the City) to assure that school crossings are properly marked and monitored, speed limits in school zones are enforced, and school bus safety protocols are followed and enforced.
As a board member, I will recognize individual efforts made to increase and promote walking, biking, and accessibility, as well as working to maintain efficient bus routes for riders.
Student safety is paramount and equal access is more than a law, it is a must. I would like to see less money spent on our new facilities and more spent on increasing capacities in older ones.
2. CPS’ transportation policies state:
“Attention will be given to creating safe routes to schools that encourage walking or biking by students. The Board encourages bus routes and schedules that incorporate a short distance of safe walking into every student’s transportation plan.”
And “The Columbia Public School District shall promote safe walking and bicycling to school whenever possible.” How can the school district carry out these policies to allow students to safely walk and bike to and from school?
We have been working very closely with out new transportation provider STA – Student Transportation of America to study and improve on the bus routes for our students. The distance and safety of students walking to the pickup points of those routes are very important. We have also consulted with Pednet on recommendations for walking routes for students and encourage a working relationship with PTA to develop walking routes.
When land is selected for a new school, walkability and safety are seriously considered such as the sites for Alpha Hart Lewis, Beulah Ralph and the new southwest site within the Vinyards Subdivision. Unfortunately, many of our schools are not in safe locations for walking and biking. The board has directed our transportation provider to centralize bus pickup locations within neighborhoods to encourage students to walk, which also helps the environment!
The critical balance here is encouraging walking or biking without subjecting children to unacceptable safety risks, such as crossing major thoroughfares without adult supervision. Where walking/biking can be safely encouraged it should be. However, it should not be encouraged at all costs to the students.
The Board can continue to promote and support programs such as the Walking School Bus and individual efforts by teachers, parents, and students to increase walking and biking while still maintaining strong safety practices.
My goals are for more community involvement in our education than we already have. I am all for expanding this as long as supervision and safety for the students is in no way sacrificed.
3. What will you do during your term to promote walking and biking to and from school?
I will continue to support Pednet as a Partner in Education and the efforts to working with our local PTA’s on programs that focuses on walking and biking to and from school. I also support the City of Columbia Strategic Plan that has a major emphasis on community health and wellness for all citizens of Columbia.
Collaborate with the city to work with schools who want to develop safe walking/bike routes, even when faced with obstacles. Working with safety and security director, health and wellness committee, physical education coordinator to coordinate efforts which promote wellness and fight childhood obesity.
Promote organized activities such as the walking school buses, that encourage walking while building additional safety and security protocols into the equation.
I will work to ensure that walking and biking are safe alternatives around our various school properties and that specific needs (like bike racks) are available for use.
I would be more than interested to meet with members from the community and hear their ideas. I am all for increasing student health.
4. How do you think the City of Columbia and Columbia Public Schools could work together to encourage students to walk, bike, and use public transportation to get to and from school?
CPS and the City of Columbia, University of Missouri, Boone County and the Chamber of Commerce meet on a quarterly basis to discuss ways to jointly service our community. High on the list of items we have focused on is the health and wellness of our community, walking trails and exploring ways we can to better utilize public transportation especially for after activities for our students. We plan to continue these discussions.
Work in cooperation with schools to provide information sessions for students and school staff as to where the safe routes to walk and bike are located and provide time for bicycle education. Currently, state law does not allow students to ride on public transportation. District officials are working with city staff to lobby state legislators to change law.
To the extent permitted by state law, coordinate school bus transportation with public transit options, particularly for middle and secondary students.
I think we are actually ahead of the curve on this issue. We must continue to have efficient, effective, and reasonable alternative transportation options.
I will support the position as long as it is within the communities will to do. My fear is that in order to guarantee safety and supervision, there could be additional cost that would be difficult but not impossible to work out.