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Village, school look for safer path for students

The village of St. Paris is working with the state to create a safe way for students to walk to the elementary and middle school that are on a busy local road.

“There is no way to get to the school beside a vehicle, unless you walk on the berm of the road,” former village Mayor Brenda Cook said.

Cook previously taught in Graham Local Schools and remembers when all students would walk to the old junior high school before it moved outside the village.

Now, Graham Middle School and Graham Elementary School are located next to each other on U.S. 36, about a half mile outside the village.

Currently most students either take a bus or are driven by parents to school.

The village passed an ordinance and created a committee to investigate a safe route to school. The committee has sent in an application to the Ohio Department of Transportation for a school travel plan that would include a multi-use path to connect the village to the schools.

“I would like to see people focus more on activity, action and just get out walking. I think it would be healthier (for students),” Graham Elementary School nurse Jenni Hawke said.

The trail would get good use, Hawke said, and expose the town to new hobbies. Hawke said right now not a lot of people in the community bike, but, “if they lived in town with a path in their backyard, they could be more apt to participate.”

Village Administrator Joe Sampson said the path would benefit everyone in the village, especially the businesses on the outside of town.

Last year ODOT approved 10 locations for school travel plan assessments. This year 17 applications for school travel plans have been submitted and money will be tight, ODOT’s Safe Route to School Coordinator Justin Yoh said.

The department has $4 million to spend on Safe Route to School programs and received applications seeking a total of $22 million.

One major factor that influences where the safe route money is spent is how many students live within two miles of the school, Yoh said.

If St. Paris is approved, ODOT engineers will study travel tendencies of students in the fall and hopefully have a plan done by January.

Then the village can apply for money from ODOT to make any changes.

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