BEND, OR -- The Oregon Department of Transportation has granted Commute Options more funding. Community Outreach Director for Commute Options, Kim Curley, says now they can cover the whole region. "We're really branching out from just Bend, we received a little bit more funding, and we're guaranteed for 3 years to offer Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs in our three counties." Commute Options will provide training, and the staff of each school can teach the kids why transportation options are important.
Another program that boosts SRTS is not just for paid educators. "If you're involved in school, if you're a parent of a school, give us a call, check out our website, Commute.Options.org. We have an amazing Walking School Bus program, where we pay adult leaders to walk with kids to make that a convenient and safe option." The Walking School Bus program is funded by the Central Oregon Health Council through the 2019-2020 school year.
Most Central Oregon Schools start next week and Commute Options is excited to see some ODOT funded infrastructure projects to build safer sidewalks and crosswalks near schools. Curley says safer sidewalks and crosswalks make it easier for kids to bike and walk to school, where they'll learn about transportation options. "That infrastructure engineering goes hand in hand with the education and encouragement we offer. So, put it in your mind, think about it, mull it over, talk about with your kids and your neighborhood, how we can do more walking and biking. It's good for us."
Recent grant awards in the ODOT Safe Routes to Schools means $15 Million is being spent on 24 statewide projects that make the areas around schools safer for kids, like the one nearly finished near Terrebonne Community School. Priorities were given for elementary and middle schools, projects that were shovel-ready and schools in high poverty areas.
Commute Options wants to teach school kids that walking or biking to school is fun, and Curley says it starts with adults. "We train P.E. teachers how to do pedestrian safety, right in their own classrooms, so we don't even have to show up in Madras to walk with kids, the P.E. teacher already knows how."