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Madison School Board Explores Safe Routes to School Program

Liz Keill

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 • 6:53am

MADISON, NJ – In its efforts to promote walking and bicycling to school rather than car pooling, the Board of Education is considering a Morris County TransOptions program.
 
“It’s a phenomenal program and it’s free,” Board President Lisa Ellis said. She added she serves on the Complete Streets Committee and that Sustainable Madison is engaged in efforts to promote the walking school bus and other initiatives.
 
A presentation at the Oct. 16 meeting by county representatives included steps to help districts start such a program. According to the presentation, one mile equals about 20 minutes in walking time. A committee would estimate the number of students who could walk or bike to school, determine where sidewalks are located, dropoff-pick up locations and other factors. Suggestions include a bicycle train and a stop plus walk plan for students who live farther away.
 
A Student Travel Tally would provide a baseline snapshot and ideas could be promoted on a Facebook page. The county proposal is based on 5 E’s: Environment, Education, Evaluation, Engineering and Enforcement.
 
Superintendent of Schools Michael Rossi said a district goals presentation will be made at the Nov. 13 Board of Education meeting. Included, he said, will be information on student achievement, best practices, community relations, energy reduction, the Physics First initiative and other areas.
 
Rossi also said a Nov. 1 seminar will be held on concussions, especially for athletes and coaches and urged the public to attend. He noted that awareness of concussions and their side effects has increased during the last few years.
 
Rossi talked about the state standards developed by the Department of Education, with assessment tests for each unit in the core curriculum: English, Math, Science and Social Studies. He said that over the period from Kindergarten through 12th grade, the student would have 214 assessments. “It’s very Orwellian,” he said of the ever increasing state mandates.  
 
Board member Shade Grahling reported on the Curriculum Committee. She said the topic of waivers for athletes to drop physical education is being discussed.
 
“We take those concerns seriously and are looking at models in other schools,” Grahling said.
 
She said Chatham was moving away from waivers. Another problem is that physical education has a letter grade and might need to shift back to Pass/Fail. In other areas that demand student time, such as musicals, there’s not an equivalent waiver option, she said.
 
“We’ll continue to report on the data and will have more information for the November meeting,” she said. Grahling also stressed the philosophy of the school needs to be upper most, what is in the best educational interests of the students. “We can get caught up in the logistics,” she said of waivers and study halls.  
 
A trip to Costa Rica is being considered at the Madison Junior School.
 
“It’s been many years since there was international travel,” she sad and there are concerns about liability, insurance and safety.
 
During the public question period, parent Deborah Cohen asked about lunch issues at the Central Avenue School. She said students have run out of options on four days recently.
 
“This has happened a number of times,” Rossi said, including shortages of milk, breakfast foods and pizza. “There’s no excuse for it and we need to do a better job in a hurry.”
 
One parent noted that there are more students in the school this year and that the menus need to be updated. There aren’t as many options as are listed, so students are expecting choices that aren’t there.
 
“It’s better to over-order and risk loss of revenue rather than under-order and risk loss of profit,” she said.
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