Officials from the SCDOT Safe Routes to School Project, along with District One School officials, representatives from the county, and students from the Wren High School all gathered last Wednesday to celebrate the completion of Phase II of the Safe Routes sidewalk system. The $180,000 project connects all three Wren area schools and the football field area and includes a 2,245-foot sidewalk which was funded through joint federal, state and local program Safe Routes to School.
The program is administered through the SC Department of Transportation and encourages biking and walking for students in kindergarten through eighth grades.
District Six Councilman Ken Waters was on hand to extol the cooperation that was essential to the five year project’s completion. “You can now walk from Wren Elementary School all the way to the high school football field and be safe every step. The District One attitude of “What can I do to help?” was essential in getting this project done.”
Safe Routes To School (SRTS) is a growing movement across the country to bring parents, schools, and community leaders together to encourage students, including those with disabilities, to walk and bike to school, and to provide a safe means for them to do so.
The Wren project began in 2007. A third phase is planned, but no search for funding has begun yet.
In addition to the sidewalk which connects the Wren schools and the football stadium area, LaRoache Drive and school entrances were widened. Turn lanes, crosswalks and pavement markings were also added. The complete project construction cost amounted to $456,500 and in addition to the grants, included contributions from Anderson County and Anderson School District 1.
District One Superintendent Dr. Wayne Fowler praised Anderson County Roads and Bridges chief engineer Judy Shelato for her work, saying that she was the driving force from the start, when she obtained the first grant.
Shelato, principal engineer for Anderson County, was the project manager. She said the third phase of the project will start at the ninth-grade pickup loop, go to Roper Road, Wren High School and Hurricane Springs Park. She said the sidewalks and the park form a sort of town center.
“We’re fortunate to have Hurricane Park next door which is a wonderful park that has access to schools,” she said.
Anderson School District One received the first Safe Routes grant in 2007, and was one of 24 schools receiving grants. It is the first in the state to complete infrastructure.
The sidewalk dedication was held almost a year after Gretchen Randall, a District 1 teaching assistant, was fatally injured when she was hit by a car following a Wren High School football game. Her 15-year-old daughter was also injured as they walked along an unlit crosswalk.
Besides providing a safe walkway for students at the three schools, the project benefits parents who drop off and pick up students at different school buildings. The sidewalk allows students to leave from cars at one school and walk to their destination.
“From conception to completion it’s a wonderful feeling,” said Safe Routes South Carolina coordinator Rodney Oldham. “It has definitely been a work-in-progress, but we thank God for the stick-to-it-ness of the county as well as the school district.”
Oldham also cited the cooperation of the various individuals and agencies that led to the Wren schools being among the first to establish a Safe Routes project. “The tireless efforts and the remarkable commitment of the people involved in this project has come to fruition, and created a wonderful resource, not just for these schools, but for the Wren community.”