Surprise Charter Leaders Look to Provide Safe Routes to School

This is part of a series of blog posts to celebrate National Charter Schools Week. You can find our first blog post here, the second post here and our third post here. Make sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook and use #CharterSchoolsWeek!

Melissa Holdaway knows the importance of collaboration.

Holdaway , the chief operating officer of Arizona Charter Academy in Surprise, routinely partners with everyone in the Surprise community from the local city council, and fire and police departments, to the nearest Elks lodge.

She also hasn’t shied away from working with her charter school counterparts in the West Valley city, Imagine Middle and Prep at Surprise and Imagine Charter Elementary School at Rosefield, viewing them as valuable partners instead of competition.

So when Surprise officials approached Holdaway with an opportunity to help make local students safer on their trip to school, she immediately reached out to her fellow charter school leaders.

The three charter schools were recently awarded the Safe Routes to School grant, a $72,000 federal grant administered by Maricopa Association of Governments, in partnership with the Arizona Department of Transportation.

The grant is part of the U.S. Congress’ Safe Routes to School program.

The schools will work with an outside consultant and city officials to make safety recommendations along popular school routes, said Janeen Gaskins, grant administrator for the City of Surprise.

Based on those recommendations, the city will apply for up to a $200,000 grant to implement the safety measures.

School leaders and city officials will also meet with teachers, staff and parents to discuss strategies the community can enact on its own to keep students safe, part of the outreach portion of the grant.

The grant is important because there a number of major streets, highways and railroad tracks in the area, and many of the students walk to school.

Arizona Charter Academy is located near a major highway that runs parallel to a set of railroad tracks.

“It could mean the difference between a student getting hurt or killed and Dysart is a busy street,” Holdaway said. “I’m just super concerned someone is going to get hit and we don’t want that to happen.”

Imagine Charter Elementary School at Rosefield and Imagine Middle and Prep is located are also near busy intersections in Surprise.

The community will start working together later this month and hope to finish the process by December.

Holdaway said the ability for the charter schools and city officials to work together provides a huge benefit to the community, and will help the ultimate success of the charter school movement.

“They know we all stick together,” Holdaway said. “If we want to move forward as a movement, we have to be unified.”


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