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Students help school district spot road hazards

About 70 nursing students are working to improve the safety and health of Mansfield ISD students walking and biking to school, a university instructor said.

Sharon Canclini, a clinical instructor for the Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences and supervisor of the project, said the students are conducting Safe Routes to School assessments in collaboration with the City of Arlington. Safe Routes to School is a national organization that enables and encourages students to safely walk or bike to school, she said.

Their goal is to submit their data to the Texas Department of Transportation for a grant, which would help pay for the improvements of the school routes, Canclini said.

Claude Cunningham, associate superintendent of the Mansfield ISD, said the safety problems along the routes include sidewalks that need to be repaired, added or improved.

The program was started to improve poor road conditions around schools and to help educate drivers about unsafe driving habits, Canclini said. The program will promote a healthy lifestyle to students at an early age and will also reduce traffic, fuel consumption and air pollution in surrounding schools, she said.

The ongoing project was a coalition between the Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences, the City of Arlington and Mansfield ISD schools since last semester, Canclini said.

Canclini said her nursing students helped the students meet the needs of the community.

“They photographed the community so the engineers could come up with a plan,” Canclini said.

The students surveyed and monitored the school areas using data they collected, which showed things such as traffic congestion, unsafe driving habits and unimproved county roads, Canclini said.

The surveys and research put together by the nursing students on the roadways were sent to an engineer to support the project, Canclini said. The Mansfield ISD paid the engineer more than $5,000 to train her students to photograph and document the area, she said. A report taken from the photos and documentation by the nursing students was sent to the City of Arlington, who agreed to consider the proposal, she said.

Alicia Winkelblech, a City of Arlington planner, said that the city takes a lot of proposals but there’s not enough money to fund all of them. However, the city is still considering funding the project, she said.

Canclini said she will continue the project this semester with her students as they prepare to inform fourth-grade students how to safely and responsibly ride their bicycles to school.

A bike rodeo will be put in place at the Mansfield schools to train students to become proper pedestrians, helping them know which way to ride on the roadway, Canclini said. Also, curriculum that’s a part of the Texas Bicycle Coalition based in Austin will be given to teachers in the district, Canclini said. The curriculum is embedded into the current Texas education requirements to educate the community on bicycle safety, she said.

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