By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer
Wellness advocates and Muskogee school officials are seeking ways to help more kids walk to school.
The city of Muskogee is receiving a grant through the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust to study “walkability” around Whittier, Cherokee and Irving elementary schools, said Doug Walton, coordinator for the Muskogee County Food and Fitness Initiative.
Nearly half of the one-year $10,000 grant, which is subject to City Council approval, will be used for the study. The other half will go to help Certified Healthy Restaurants feature and promote healthy items on their menus, Walton said.
The walkability study will be done over the school year.
“We’ve already begun gathering some data on proximity of the schools,” Walton said.
Wayne Johnson, the director of facilities and maintenance in Muskogee Public Schools, is helping with the study.
“It will allow us to get information from parents and students about why they are not walking to school,” Johnson said. “This will help us identify barriers to walking.”
Such barriers could be lack of sidewalks or the presence of bullies in an area, he said.
“One barrier could be dogs in the area,” he said.
Johnson said he and MPS Police Chief Dan Hall would work on the study. Hall and Johnson also are City Council members.
“Dan will work on the security aspect,” Johnson said. “With us being on the City Council, I think we have a good crew. Together, we can help identify and solve the barriers.”
Walton said he hopes to glean information from the study about the roadblocks that keep kids from walking to school.
“On opening day of the 2015 school year, we have a resolve to see a visible difference in the number of students walking or riding to school and to see a reduction in traffic congestion at the schools,” he said.
Whittier, Cherokee and Irving were selected because they are seen as neighborhood schools and have a high percentage of students on free or reduced-price lunch, he said.
Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.