As Supervisor of Physical Education, Health and Safety in the City of Elizabeth Public School District, I understand the 150-minutes-per-week physical education requirement in New Jersey is not enough to prevent modern lifestyle diseases like metabolic syndrome and build strong muscles, bones and joints in our district’s students. Walking and biking to school is the simplest way to infuse more physical activity into a student’s day. However, the proper infrastructure must be in place to support it. Our district’s physical education department partnered with EZ Ride’s Safe Routes to School program to make the streets of the City of Elizabeth more conducive to walking and biking. However, once students reach school, they have to feel confident their bicycles will be there at the end of the school day.
We applied the “build it and they will come” philosophy. We had bicycle racks installed at select schools in high-visibility locations close to each school’s main entrance. Sure enough, the racks gradually began to fill up with bicycles. Our idea was that students and parents would pass by the racks, see the bikes and be reassured that biking is a popular and fast way to safely travel around our community. The concept worked and principals began asking for bicycle racks. I was soon notified by our Director of Plant, Property and Equipment, however, that we had run out of funds for more racks.
In the fall, I applied for a Shaping Elizabeth mini-grant. I proposed purchasing two bicycle racks to install at two more local schools. Just before the holidays, I learned my department would receive the grant. This is exciting because one of these two schools is Joseph Battin School No. 4, which received a 2019 EZ Ride Safe Routes to School Gold Award for working to improve pedestrian and bike safety around its grounds. Physical education teacher Nicole Tarallo spearheaded the school’s entire project. She received a New Jersey Champion of Change award for her work.
Shaping Elizabeth continues to be a Champion of Change for the students of Elizabeth Public Schools and the City of Elizabeth. They make ideas come to life.
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