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Cincinnati Public Schools fifth-grader calls on district to update its Safe Routes to School plan

Posted at 12:50 AM, Aug 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-28 00:50:51-04

CINCINNATI -- A young girl's crusade to get a sidewalk to make her walk to school safer continued during Monday night's Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education meeting. Sands Montessori fifth-grader Madelyn Gerker asked the board to update its Safe Routes to School plan -- currently one of many obstacles between Gerker, her siblings, and their dream of a better walk to school.

"It would really help if you would update your plan so children and families all over the city would have a safer route to school," she said. "Without a sidewalk, it is very unsafe because a lot of cars go past the speed limit, the road is very rocky, and there is no safe place to stand when there are many families in cars coming."

Madelyn first made her case in March to Mayor John Cranley and City Council in a hand-written letter, saying she and her younger siblings need a sidewalk for their trip down Sussex Road to Sands Montessori each school morning.

The city was quick to send engineers to assess the area and begin making estimates on the cost of a new sidewalk. As of the week before this school year, the city was still working to establish a plan to install a sidewalk on Sussex.

Money is the chief obstacle, according to city principal engineer Bob Vickrey. A sidewalk on either side of the street would cost at least $180,000 and potentially as much as $220,000, he said, and efforts to find the money turned up nothing but dust.

Vickrey told City Council's Neighborhoods Committee during a July 30 hearing that the city "reached out to a number of our outside grant funding agencies to see if they were able to participate at any level," but that the city did not have the budget to cover the full cost of the sidewalk.

Gerker and her family hope that if Cincinnati Public Schools updates its Safe Routes to School plan, it will again become eligible for a federal Safe Routes to School grant that could help cover a portion of the cost. 

They aren't the only ones anxious to see it happen.

"We have run into road block after road block trying to find a way to put in a sidewalk on this street," supporter Sarah Henry said.

District officials promised they would do what they could to update their plan and move Madelyn closer to her ultimate goal.