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Clairton students form 'walking school buses' to kick start safe schools program

| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 7:48 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Clairton fifth-grader Kaniah Harper carries a 'walking school bus' sign along Seventh Street during a morning commute with fellow students, school staff and community volunteers on Tuesday morning.

Banding together to form neighborhood “walking school buses,” Clairton students kicked off Allegheny County's Safe Routes to School program on their Tuesday morning commute.

As a walking district where students in kindergarten through 12th grade arrive at Clairton Education Center between 7:30 and 8 a.m., the county health department staff named the district the perfect place to emphasize safe travel.

“Students are already walking,” program coordinator Alysia Tucker of Allegheny County Health Department said. “We wanted to see how they're getting to school and make sure they are taking the safest routes possible.”

Clairton City School District public relations specialist Alexis Trubiani said safety is the district's top priority.

“Anything that can reinforce safety measures with our students is wonderful,” Trubiani said, thanking the health department, police, city council and parents for participating. “The students get to see that there are people in the community who are and want them to be safe.”

The program has health and wellness benefits, Tucker explained. While some families drive their children to school, she said a morning walk could start students' day off on a healthy foot.

Liz Breegle joined her children, second-grader Ryan and third-grader Carmen, on a morning walk from their Wilson home. Neighborhood children and parents met district staff in Clairton Park and walked from there as a large group.

“It was a very good experience, because we got out and moving,” Breegle said. “But it was a challenge for my son because he has asthma.”

Despite any setbacks, Ryan and Carmen said the walk was enjoyable.

Fourth-grader Kitana Jamison, whose group walked from Neil C. Brown Stadium along Miller Avenue, said she was happy to walk with classmates because she normally makes the trek alone.

“I felt safe and I had people to talk to,” she said.

A third group for the city's Century Townhomes complex and Terrace neighborhood met in the Dollar General parking lot.

After their walk, students received treat bags with healthy snacks. Parents were invited into the school for juice, coffee and doughnuts.

In coming months, the county will assign a traffic engineer to conduct a walking survey that will examine any need for infrastructure and non-infrastructure improvements to students' routes. The study will consider sidewalks, road crossings and sight obstructions among potential concerns.

“Because Clairton students are primarily walkers, this type of program and study is important in identifying and correcting any problems,” Clairton police Chief Rob Hoffman said.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or