WORTHINGTON - The Minnesota Department of Transportation announced Tuesday the recipients of $250,000 in Safe Routes to School grants, which support walking and biking programs at K-12 schools in Minnesota, and District 518 schools will reap some of the benefits. 

The grants were announced in October 2014. MnDOT received 85 applications requesting approximately $538,000 and funded 68 of the requests.

Mini-grants totaling $125,000 were distributed to 64 of 69 schools who applied. Of the amount, $17,917 will be distributed to schools in southwest Minnesota through the Southwest Regional Development Commission.

The grants of up to $2,500 may be used for crossing guard supplies, bicycle maintenance equipment and incentives for walking or biking. Bike fleet awards were also granted to other school districts.

Prairie Elementary was awarded $2,150 for improving walking conditions to the school. Prairie Elementary Assistant Principal Zach Dingmann revealed that if the school board approves the grant, the school intends to paint intersections and purchase crossing guard supplies.

“We have eight intersections we have identified around Prairie that we would paint,” Dingmann said. “That would help for our ‘Walk to School’ event day, and that would help with the safety of that.

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“Prairie is pretty excited about working with Safe Routes to School and being awarded this grant,” Dingmann added. “It gives us an opportunity to help promote healthier kids and different modes and ways of getting to Prairie. I know that’s kind of been an obstacle.

“We’re looking at different ways to promote getting to Prairie and doing that in a healthy way by exercising, walking and biking and things like that. We’re pretty excited. There’s a lot of planning and work that has to be done yet before our event, but we’re looking forward to it.”

Worthington Middle School and Worthington High School, which applied jointly, received a $2,000 grant from MnDOT.

Worthington Middle School Principal Jeff Luke said the schools will purchase pedestrian crossing signs to place in intersections similar to ones currently used in downtown Worthington. Further, Luke said a portion of the money will be used for education posters and materials to promote the use of crosswalks among students.

Finally, the district will continue efforts to seek a lower speed limit around the school before and after school, when students are likely to be crossing the street.

Jackson County Central School District received four mini-grants. Superintendent Todd Meyer said Riverside Elementary in Jackson received the maximum $2,500. Pleasantview Elementary in Lakefield received $1,480. Jackson County Central Middle School in Lakefield received the maximum $2,500 as well. Finally, Jackson County Central High School in Jackson received $715.

Meyer indicated the money will be used for painting sidewalks and putting up speed limit signs and signs for slowing down. Likewise, the district will purchase school patrol supplies.

Meyer explained the district’s creative painting plans. The students will be asked to paint the bottoms of an old pair of shoes and walk on the crosswalks, with the effort intended to make the area visible in an artistic way. The district will paint slow down signs on the road as well.

“We saw some ideas where that had been done in some places around the country. Wow!” Meyer said. “It really jazzes you. You as a driver, you notice that.”

“It just makes the kids that much more visible. ... The more visible they are, the more likely the cars will slow down and stop,” he added. “We were very excited to get it (the grants). It was just nice to see it come through.”

Michael Vander Haar, who works in Community Education and Active Living for Pipestone Area Schools, noted that the school district received $2,471.85. According to Vander Haar, the district will upgrade crossing guard equipment, including new paddle stop signs and reflective vests for the district’s crossing guards. Also, the district will purchase in-street pedestrian signs that will be placed in the middle of the street before and after school when students will be crossing the street.

“We’re really excited, of course, to get a grant,” Vander Haar said. “Pipestone has been working hard because we’ve already received two infrastructure Safe Route to School grants previously. This is just … an added feature that keeps us moving forward with our Safe Routes to School program here in Pipestone.”

In 2011, Pipestone received two awards totaling $219,828 to construct a route to connect existing paths and trails near local schools to enable students to safely walk and bike to school and also provide walking/biking access to other recreation spots.

Windom Area Public Schools and Heron Lake-Okabena Schools also received Safe Routes to School mini-grants.

In January, Gov. Mark Dayton proposed an additional $5 million investment over the next two years to continue to support biking and walking infrastructure and Safe Routes to School programs.