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School bans students riding bikes

Posted by TonyG on Thu May 24 10:47:26 2012

Gilbert charter school Edu-Prize bans bikes

Parents frustrated with policy change at Edu-Prize charter school

by Hayley Ringle - May. 23, 2012 10:13 PM
The Republic | azcentral.com

Don Carlson is not happy that his two daughters can no longer ride their bikes to school after the board of Edu-Prize charter school in Gilbert decided to ban bicycles because of safety concerns.

"Every parent has to drop their child off now, and traffic in the morning is extremely congested," said Carlson, who lives in the nearby Stonehenge community in Gilbert.

"Research shows that kids that get exercise before school are more focused and can concentrate better," he said. "I want to help reduce the amount of traffic in the morning. It would be huge if I don't have to spend gas money to drive my kids."

Edu-Prize, a popular K-8 charter school, also requires signed parent waivers for students to be able to walk to school alone. The school has an enrollment of 1,263 with a waiting list of more than 1,000 students. It does not provide transportation.

The safety concerns that led to the policy change have included "one child weaving between cars" and children riding on sidewalks and putting pedestrians "in danger" because "the streets are not safe to ride on," said Barbara Duncan, the school's chief operating officer.

Children also have crossed major streets in "violation of our policy," she said.

"All have put children at considerable risk, and our board has acted to keep children safe before there is a predictable event," Duncan said in an e-mail. "The streets are marked with bike paths but are not wide enough for children or parents to safely use them."

The school has children attending from all parts of the Valley. There are 50 students who walk to school, and of those, about 18 have ridden a bike to school on occasion, Duncan said.

The revised school-transportation policy says parents have "agreed to provide transportation to and from school."

"It is the parent's responsibility to provide in writing those who may transport their student from school," the policy adds. "Bicycles, skateboards, scooters, Rollerblades, skates, etc., should not be used as a means of transportation to and from school."

Duncan said the school has worked with parents to provide options, including carpools, for those students who were riding bikes to school.

Carlson is among a group of parents who live near the school, near Baseline and Cooper roads, who are irritated by the policy change.

He said he would often ride his bike with his fourth- and sixth-grade daughters to get some exercise. Now, that won't be allowed.

Duncan said there are plenty of opportunities on campus for students to get exercise. The school has a fitness trail, fitness-focused physical-education programs offered weekly and a variety of conditioning opportunities, such as climbing walls, she said.

Marty Brown, whose fifth-grade daughter has been riding her bike to Edu-Prize for a year, said the policy change is "frustrating." The Brown family rides bikes together on the weekends and takes their bikes on vacations.

"Now, we have to spend more money on gas and wait in a long line to drop our kids off at school," Brown said. "It's a waste of time and a waste of fuel when we live half-a-mile away."

Don Carlson's ex-wife, Allison Carlson, who also lives close to the school in the Arbor Walk community, said she thinks the policy change is "unforgivable" and "ridiculous."

"In today's day and age, when you have dual-working families, two working parents and single-parent homes, and you're trying to be more environmentally friendly, it's essential that schools work with families to bike and walk to school and allow them to get to and from school the best they can," she said.

Gilbert offers a Safe Routes to School program, and 16 elementary and junior- high schools partner with the town to encourage students to walk or ride bikes to school, said Ken Maruyama, the program's coordinator. He also works with schools to organize community events, such as walk- and bike-to-school months and bike-safety workshops.

"The community benefits include reducing traffic congestion, improving air quality and promoting a healthier lifestyle," said Maruyama, who explained the program at the last Edu-Prize board meeting at the invitation of Don Carlson.

When schools have partnered with the town through the National Center for Safe Routes to School, Maruyama said, it has helped thwart safety concerns by finding the funding to build new sidewalks, install electronic driver-feedback speed-limit signs and install crosswalks.

"I'm sure we can develop a partnership to address the safety issues (at Edu-Prize), but we can't do much unless the school is interested in working with us," Maruyama said.

Gilbert has been recognized as a bicycle-friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists. May is National Bike Month, and April was Valley Bike Month.







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