April 3, 2013 (Independence, IA) – By the time the new JR / SR High School opens in August of 2013, ICSD students, staff and visitors will have a safe route to travel between buildings from one end of campus to the other. The paved trail will provide a direct connection between the District’s East / West Elementary campus and the new JR / SR High School. Over time, the trail will feature benches, trees, historical points of interest, and outdoor education features.
Over the last 3-4 months, a committee comprised of various community and staff members met to discuss the best route and certain features for the trail. The committee contained representatives from groups such as the ICSD, the Buchanan County Trails Association, Buchanan County Health Center, the Department of Health of Human Services, the City of Independence, Trees Forever, and Safe Routes to Schools.
At the March 18th Board of Education meeting, the board approved the hiring of HSR Associates, Inc. the same firm that designed the new school, to design the trail. “We are really looking forward to connecting the campuses with a safe, direct route that staff, students and community members can use on a daily basis. It will offer recreational and learning opportunities with outdoor education features planned along the route”, said Superintendent Russell Reiter. The district has already implemented a “Walking Towards Wellness” program with staff and students. The program challenges students and staff to increase their physical exercise by walking the trail for at least 15 minutes every week. “The district is putting a greater emphasis on wellness for our students and staff and we would like to extend that to surrounding community members and visitors. The trail will be open to the public and we envision it becoming a community destination point”, added Peterson.
No property tax dollars will be used to fund this project. Funding for the trail will come from a variety of other sources, including in-kind donors, cash donations from alumni that have raised money during class reunions to pay for benches, and the state-wide SILO (sales tax) funds. Under State law, SILO funds cannot be used for general fund expenditures, such as teacher salaries and general operating costs of the District. Instead, SILO funds are reserved for facility maintenance, repairs, improvements, and certain other permissible expenditures under Iowa law. The District has also applied for a grant with the Buchanan County Community Foundation. The District will also be seeking grants with the help of Trees Forever and other organizations for trees and landscaping features.
Construction for the trail will begin after bid letting this spring with completion by August 1st. “The original plans were to have a road connecting the campus which was estimated at $750,000. However, substantially more planning is required before the District can proceed with a road across the 92 acres. The District is able to save nearly $580,000 by incorporating a trail instead of a road at this time”, said Board President Brian Eddy.
If you have questions regarding the District’s new safe route to the new school, please contact Superintendent Russell Reiter at email@example.com or (319) 334-7400.
Jenny Yoder, Fusion Forward