Safe Routes starts the season | News, Sports, Jobs

FAIRMONT– Safe Routes to School kicked off for the season on Tuesday. The program is organized by Early Risers Kiwanis in partnership with Fairmont Community Education and Recreation.

On Tuesday morning, CER hosted a light breakfast of appreciation for those who volunteer with SRTS, as well as school crossing guards who have an overlapping goal to keep children safe. At that time, part of the program’s history was shared.

Jim Simser said Joe Burns, a lifelong Kiwanian, brought the idea to the group about 20 years ago.

“The goal was to get the kids to exercise” Simser said.

Char Kahler said the routes have changed slightly over the years, but have remained the same since the beginning for the most part. She said they were established in areas close to schools that did not have buses.

The first route begins at Orient and Day Street. Route 2 begins at the Fairmont Water Park. Route three begins at Bird Park on Woodland Avenue and route four begins at Grace Lutheran Church.

All routes depart between 7:30am and 7:45am on Tuesday mornings. There are drop-off locations for students attending Fairmont Elementary, St. John Vianney, and St. Paul Lutheran.

SRTS actually takes place over two seasons. The fall session runs from the first week of school until mid-October and the spring session begins in April and continues until the end of the school year.

Allen Core said SRTS unfortunately missed three seasons. This was not done at all in 2020 or spring 2021 due to Covid. The group hopes to continue with the consistency of the program in the future.

At one point, there would be almost 20 students, from kindergarten to grade 6, walking together on a route. Those numbers may have dropped, but CER Director Stephanie Busiahn said even families who don’t live in the area can drop off their child at any of the route’s starting points.

“Children can experience some of the great benefits of walking to school,” said Busiahn.

Kahler added, “If Joe Burns were here, he would explain that if you exercise right away, your child’s brain will be a little sharper or quicker to absorb things. Give your kids the chance to start their day off right. Make a safe deposit rather than a crazy deposit.

Kiwanis members who volunteer usually wear branded shirts, and Trushenski said parents and children recognize them and know it’s a safe and positive program.

Along with the exercise, Simser said they emphasize the safety of crossing the street, watching for cars and waiting to cross when it’s safe.

Steve Langford, a longtime crossing guard, said he would like to remind drivers to slow down and watch out for students, especially near schools.

Langford said he knows a lot of students by name and enjoys seeing them outside, although sometimes they don’t recognize him without his reflective vest.

Kiwanis members who have volunteered for the program have commented on how great it is to see the students grow over the years.

Mary Schmitt shared that the kids she started walking with are now in high school.

“You develop a relationship with them”, said Troushensky.

“Children know each other and they also know that an adult cares about them”, said Kahler.

Anyone with questions about SRTS can contact the CER office at 507-235-3141.

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