DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — In the middle of the day, hundreds of Durham Public Schools students left the classroom to hit the streets.
R.N. Harris Elementary Principal Mshinda Middleton-Brown said it’s all part of a plan to keep them safe in potentially dangerous conditions.
“If you can empower them to be good citizens, that’s another person who thinks about safety and thinks about the livelihoods of others,” Middleton-Brown said.
Students and staff members at R.N. Harris Elementary School walked and biked around campus Friday as part of the Safe Routes to School program.
This comes as community members express concerns about recent incidents in Durham. So far this year, there have been at least eight pedestrians hit and killed by vehicles.
“We just do not have the infrastructure to allow kids to come to school by walking or riding a bicycle,” Safe Routes to School trainer Ruth Brown said. “It’s all car motivated or bus.”
The district recently received nearly $400,000 in grant money to expand its safety training and is also working with public officials to improve infrastructure.
“There are infrastructure gaps and we all know that,” DPS Community Transportation Planner Kristen Brookshire said. “And it takes a lot of investment to work through those gaps. There’s a long backlog.”
The grant funding is being used to support the identification of common walking routes to school.
“When we grew up, this was the thing to do,” Middleton-Brown said. “Now with this program, it’s bringing it back to that place where it is the thing to do.”
DPS has more events scheduled this fall where students can walk to school together.