Lancaster will begin developing a Safe Routes to School plan, with the receipt of a $475,000 Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) grant from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to fund the process. The city will work in close cooperation with Antelope Valley Partners for Health (AVPH), all four local school districts, school children and their families, as well as interested community members to create the plan, which will improve the infrastructure around schools.

The purpose of the master plan is to design safe, attractive and accessible routes to schools, while enhancing the walkability and livability of the surrounding areas. It will also improve the health of these communities by encouraging residents to walk, bike and become more active.

“City planning has an enormous influence on our exercise habits. If you live on a road where cars are whipping by at 55 miles per hour with no marked crosswalks, you are much less likely to let your second-grader walk to school. With fewer children walking and biking these days, our children are at a much higher risk of becoming overweight,” said Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris. “By simply planning our city with walkability in mind, we encourage people to become more active, and improve pedestrian and cyclist safety, while also decreasing traffic congestion.”

The Safe Routes to School master plan will focus on the areas within a half mile radius around each of Lancaster’s 29 public schools, and a comprehensive plan is expected by autumn of 2016. Individual school-based plans with detailed engineering improvements and programs for each campus Incorporated into the master plan.

All four school districts in Lancaster—Lancaster School District, Eastside Union School District, Westside Union School District, Antelope Valley Union High School District—will participate in the master plan development process. AVPH will serve as the city’s community partner, planning and promoting these events.

The development process will include: workshops to gather community input, surveys, educational seminars, and interactive events such as walk audits and “walking school buses.”

The Walking School Bus Program, recently launched by Lancaster School District in collaboration with the city, is a safe, fun and convenient way for children to walk to school in adult-supervised groups.

For more information, or to get involved in the planning process, contact Elma Watson at (661) 723-6266.