Lawrence school board to consider plan that calls for improving city sidewalk infrastructure
photo by: Mackenzie Clark/Journal-World File Photo
To help make travel safer for elementary and middle school students, the Lawrence school district and City of Lawrence should work improve sidewalks those students use for biking and walking to school each day, according to a plan developed by the local Safe Routes to School program.
The Lawrence school board on Monday will consider approving the plan, which already received approval from the Lawrence City Commission in December. If approved, District spokeswoman Julie Boyle said the district would then need to work with the City of Lawrence to establish a memorandum of understanding to form a working group for the plan and work on ways to implement it.
The school district, Lawrence and Douglas County have been working for years on ways to improve student travel to school through the program, which is known locally as Be Active Safe Routes. Similar plans are being considered in Eudora and Baldwin City.
Along with improving student safety, the program aims to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, increase student opportunities to be physically active and build community cohesion, according to the program.
According to a presentation included in the board’s meeting agenda, the proposed plan calls for increasing walking and biking rates to 20% by 2023 and improving infrastructure by increasing the completed sidewalks along safe routes to 95% for elementary schools and 92% for middle schools by 2025. Currently just less than 18% of students walk or bike to school, and 85% of sidewalks are completed on safe routes for elementary schools. Sidewalks around safe routes for middle schools are at 80%.
The plan also calls for filling sidewalk gaps so there are sidewalks on both sides of Lawrence’s arterial and collector roads and filling sidewalk gaps so there is a sidewalk on at least one side of local roads that make up the safe routes the program has identified.
In other business, the board will consider adding two new courses — Latin American history and animation — to the district’s high school curriculum for the 2021-22 school year.
According to the proposed course descriptions, the Latin American history class would examine the history, politics, economics, society, and culture of Latin American groups in the United States, while the animation class would focus on the television and movie industry’s animation, character and story development, digital effects, and motion graphics.
The board will also meet for a work session to discuss its annual graduation, dropout and ACT test report from the Kansas State Department of Education.
The school board will meet at 5 p.m. Monday through an online conference call. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the school district encourages the public to watch the meeting on Midco channel 26 or online at youtube.com/USD497.
Those who want to speak during public comments at the meeting can still do so. The district asks for comments to be sent by email to PatronCommentary@usd497.org. Comments can also be emailed to board members ahead of the meeting. Their contact information is available on the district’s website at usd497.org/Board.
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