It was an exciting day when the Chula Vista Elementary School District (CVESD) was awarded the Safe Routes to School Grant in 2015. For over a decade, the district sought funding that would enable the City of Chula Vista to evaluate school neighborhood streets to make them safer for families to walk and bike. Through Caltrans grant, the district partnered with Alta Planning and Circulate San Diego to assess streets and intersections around the 27 schools in the CVESD, while bringing to life It’s Cool to Walk to School at four select schools.
It’s Cool to Walk to School implements the 5 E’s of Safe Routes to School (SRTS): Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, Engineering and Evaluation. Additionally, Circulate San Diego has adopted a 6th E, which is Empowerment—guiding parents on how to be advocates for safe routes that benefit their children. Four of the 27 schools were selected for this pilot program.
Over the last year and a half, Circulate San Diego has been working with parents across the four select schools to build a sustainable program that continues after the funding ends. In order to achieve this, parent volunteers have formed groups that have been instrumental in developing the It’s Cool to Walk to School program to become a fabric of the community. We reached several exciting milestones, such as establishing Walk to School Days and the naming of the CVESD Safe Rotes to School mascot, Cami the Penguin!
All 27 CVESD schools have been engaged in Engineering and Evaluation activities. Walk audits were conducted at each school, where groups of parents met with staff from the City of Chula Vista, CVESD, Alta Planning, and Circulate SD to identify issues that affect the safety and efficiency of drop off and pick up around schools. This exercise gathered valuable community input resulting in the creation of a deficiency map for each school. Alta Planning and Design experts used this information to propose potential solutions to the identified issues. These maps and solutions will be provided to the City of Chula Vista to help inform the next steps to address the issues.
The community has been part of this project from the beginning. As the project nears completion, parents, district staff, and stakeholders are coming together to form the SRTS Coalition and share their experiences, best practices, as well as explore funding opportunities to further provide secure sustainability to their current efforts.
Overall, It’s Cool to Walk to School is a great program that encourages and engages students across Chula Vista to Walk and Bike to School safely and more often.