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Student suggestions for South Waterfront safety

Last month, The Southwest Community Connection received the following letter from Sarah Anderson, a middle school teacher at Southwest Charter School in South Portland’s South Waterfront District:

Dear Southwest Community Connection Editor,

I am a middle school teacher at Southwest Charter School. My students have recently been engaged in a unit called Project Citizen in which the class identifies a community problem, researches it and then works with government and community groups to propose a policy solution. Our class has been working on the issue of how kids get to and from school.

I have enclosed letters from two seventhth grade students that outline the issue and porpose a solution. It would be very helpful for our cause if you could publish one of them to help us raise awareness of our problem and to raise support for our solution.

Thank you for taking the time to read these letters.

Both letters have been reprinted in their entirety below.

Dear Editor:

Hello my name is Hammad Khan and I am a seventh grade student at Southwest Charter School. SWCS is located on SW Bancroft street near the Old Spaghetti Factory. I am writing this letter to you because our class has identified a problem in our community that we are trying to solve. The problem that we are addressing is that “too many cars are driving to South Waterfront.”

This is a problem because this neighborhood wasn’t made for this many cars coming through it. When a lot of cars come through South Waterfront it causes a lot of traffic. Did you know that 20 to 30 percent of traffic is caused by parents driving their kids to school? This, in turn, makes people late to work or school. Our school does not have a parking lot (so) it makes it harder and more unsafe for drop off and pick up. Did you know that 50 percent of all children hit by cars near schools are hit by parents driving their kids to school? Our school is located right next to a bike path and we want to make the streets safe for bikers and walkers.

Our proposed solution is a two-part solution. The first part is to get Safe Routes to School come to our school. Safe Routes to School is a government program that goes to schools and assists them in teaching bike safety, mapping out bike trails and making a carpool plan for the school. This program will help more students walk or bike to school. As stated, our school is conveniently located right next to a bike trail. In 1969, 42 percent of students walked or biked to school. As of 2001, only 16 percent walked or biked to school. This tells us that whatever the reason, parents stop letting their kids (bike or walk) to school. Getting kids to bike or walk to school won’t just help with the traffic, but it will also help stop air pollution.

The second part of our solution is to help create a policy. The policy that we are proposing would make it possible for students who live more two miles away from school to get transportation to and from school. The government would pay for the bus, or a TriMet pass to make getting to our school easier. This part of the solution is for kids who are too far away to bike to school.

Our class has been working extremely hard to solve this problem in our school and community!

Hammad Khan

Arnold Creek

Dear Editor:

My name is Grace Heizer and I am a student at the Southwest Charter School in Portland. Our school is located in the South Waterfront area near the Old Spaghetti Factory.

We are participating in a program called Project Citizen. This is where we find a problem in our community and then we try and solve it at the state (Legislature) in Salem. Our problem is having too many cars in the South Waterfront or too many kids driving to school.

You may think that these are a bunch of school kids trying to solve a little problem that they probably won’t succeed at, fine, go ahead and think that. But we are making a difference that could affect a bigger one. Our problem may seem small, but there are tons of other problems that go into it. For example, 50 percent of kids hit near a school are hit by other parents driving to school, having more traffic means there are higher risks of students getting hit. By reducing traffic, we are reducing accidents. And, 20 to 30 percent of morning traffic is caused by parents driving their kids to school, and then we get back to having a clean environment (plus, doesn’t it suck when you are stuck in traffic for 2 hours? Just saying.)

Our solution to this problem is to propose a policy to our government that Ohio adopted. This policy says that any kid that lives 2 or more miles away from school has the right to be picked up by a bus that the government provides. We are also creating safe routes (for biking, walking, etc.) to school and participating in Walk + Bike to school activities.

This is a problem that needs to stand out. It is unfair that we don’t have the tools (buses, more bike racks, etc.) that public schools have because we are a charter school. We work just as hard as they do and we care for our community.

Grace Heizer

Johns Landing in South Portland