CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The Student Council is working with the state's Safe Routes to School program to encourage ways for students to walk and bike to the school.
Its first step is to encourage the middle school students to walk across Cooke Memorial Town Field and up the path to Clarksburg School this May.
"We're always trying to figure out how to utilize our trails in the area around our school more," said Principal Tara Barnes. "And these folks would like to propose something that would involve a drop off down at town field."
Five members of the council — Olivia Zoito, Aiden Champney, Kylie Tower, Cecelia Kincaid and Madison Rougeau — took turns reading their presentation to the School Committee on Thursday.
The students told the committee that the project would have three phases — short, mid and long term — and that this year, they were focusing on short-term.
"The hope is that on the end of each remaining Fridays in the month of May, we try a want a walk to school option for some students," they read. "The final Friday of the month, we are hoping to try and have any eighth-graders that would like to bike to school to have a chance."
Using the drop off at the field could also help alleviate the traffic at the school driveway, the pointed out.
Longer term, they would like to make the walking trail and the bridge connecting the town field to the small parking area below the school safer. The students said there were options for state grants that the town can apply for, including a Safe Routes to School grant.
Right on cue, Lucy Friedman-Bell, outreach coordinator for Safe Route to School, joined the meeting via video. Friedman-Bell had met three times with the Student Council and Principal Tara Barnes, including in person to survey the path.
"We do have grant programs available that the school and the town are eligible to apply for for infrastructure improvements near the school that make it safer for students to walk, bike and roll to school," she said.
She detailed two programs: the signs and lines program awards up to $6,000 for signage and small infrastructure and the second offers up to $1.5 million for infrastructure such as walkways, trails and other improvements. The school district can apply as a co-applicant with the town.
"I'm really excited to be working with all the students," Friedman-Bell said. "It's been really awesome so far, and I can't say enough good things about the questions that they asked and the ideas that they have kind of the way that they think through this area."
In response to questions about what infrastructure they would need, the students said the bridge was detioriating and not good for walking or biking and that the stairs down to the path on the school side were not in good condition.
Barnes said it would helpful for the students to present their case to the Select Board, once one is in place. "I'll will have to be a partnership if we do try to reach our long-term goals of getting a grant to be able to fix some of these bigger infrastructure pieces," she said.
In other business:
• The committee also approved a school budget of $2,782,762.73, up 2.7 percent over this year. The budget is largely what was presented to the Finance Committee last week with some minor adjustments that did not change the final figure.
• Superintendent John Franzoni reported there have been five applications so date to replace Barnes, who has been named director of pupil services for the Northern Berkshire School Union effective July 1. He said the next step is to form a screening committee and begin interviews. Barnes said the school is holding off on hiring an administrative assistant since that should be for the next principal to decide.
• Resident Robert Norcross invited the committee to have a representative from the school community on the Municipal Vulnerability Committee. The committee is being guided in developing a plan for identifying areas that may be susceptible to climate change and locations around the town field are one area of concern, noting the school's trail to the field that it uses. The meetings will be shifting to evenings after next week to make it easier for more people to attend. Norcross was hopeful that the town would be able to tap into available federal and state grants.
• Barnes reported that Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System testing was nearly completed. "I'm confident that we did a great job in this building. Because it was a full team effort," she said.
The students have been given opportunity to weigh in what they thought the challenges were and how to do them better next year, such as breaks for food and possibility dong some things outside.
"These are the voices we need to hear. We need to hear from them," Barnes said. "These are the people who are taking the test. And I think it's always important to get some feedback afterward."