HARTSVILLE, S.C. – Carolina Elementary School is working with the city of Hartsville, the S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT) and the community to increase the safety of students who walk and bike to school, while encouraging more students to follow suit. And thanks to an SCDOT Safe Routes to School grant worth up to $400,000, plans to achieve those goals are now being prepared.
Carolina Elementary is one of 10 schools in South Carolina to be selected for the funding, and the school’s Safe Routes to School Committee, assembled by Principal Donna Barrett, recently met with engineers from AECOM and state Safe Routes to School Coordinator Rodney Oldham.
“We are so grateful for this grant to provide safe routes for the students to walk and ride bikes to school,” Barrett said. “Hartsville is a beautiful town for students to enjoy as they travel from home to school. As they walk and ride bikes, they build relationships with each that will last a lifetime.”
The committee, comprised of teachers, parents and city administrators, presented their vision for building up infrastructure near the school. Priorities included installing sidewalks along Marlboro Avenue and 11th Street, designating a pedestrian crosswalk in front of the school, and installing new signage that indicates school zone speed limits. The school will enlist the Hartsville Police Department’s help to ramp up enforcement in the area.
Other plans include educating students and members of the community about traffic safety, purchasing more bike racks for the school, rewarding students for walking to school and developing an ongoing relationship with the Safe Routes to School program. The committee will also work closely with the Darlington County School District to make the best use of existing facilities while implementing the infrastructure upgrades.
New sidewalks and a crosswalk would not only allow more students to safely walk to school, Barrett said during the meeting, but also would cut down on morning and afternoon traffic, provide healthy exercise for students and contribute to the overall betterment of the community. Barrett and the school’s committee said sidewalks on those streets would benefit students of Hartsville High School, Thornwell School for the Arts and residents in the area.
Ultimately, Carolina Elementary would like to increase the number of students who walk to school by 20 percent, while simultaneously decreasing the number of students who must be picked up by car each day.
The committee meeting in February marked the beginning of the project’s timeline, which should last about two years, according to Oldham.
Safe Routes to School is a federally funded grant program administered by SCDOT. Carolina Elementary submitted an application for the funding with assistance from Mary Catherine Farrell, Hartsville’s assistant to the city manager.