Detroit Public Schools and MDOT work to make walking to school safer for kids

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Detroit Public Schools are getting what you could say are some much needed improvements in and around one of their elementary schools.

Just over a year ago the Michigan Department of Transportation announced that seven Michigan schools in 4 counties would receive federal SRTS, or Safe Routes to School Grants.  One of those schools receiving funding is Bennett Elementary School on Detroit's Southwest side.

Benito Uresti teaches Kindergarten at the school.  Every day during the school year he's used to seeing parents with their kids walking.  The sidewalks are uneven, some have parts missing and he says it's part of the reason he moved away.

"A lot of us take for granted, by us I mean the teachers, safe routes, safe walking on the sidewalks," Uresti said.  "I moved out of Detroit, unfortunately, because I have a small child and when we take walks around the block you can't do it here."

That's all changing.  The sidewalks are getting a make over. 

The neighborhood Uresti is talking about is the neighborhood that borders Bennett Elementary.  From Mandale and Lawndale streets to Whittaker, Senator and Mullane streets the SRTS grant money will be used to make major upgrades to the sidewalks and crosswalks.

The school was awarded close to $148,000 and that will help offset the project - which is expected to cost more than $426,000.

MDOT made the announcement back in October 2011 that more than a half  dozen Michigan Schools in 4 counties would receive grant money to begin making the much needed improvements.

"Now these safe routes to school will provide the students with a way to play around the school. Their moms can walk with their little strollers and kids in wheelchairs and it's just sad how we can't do this everywhere," Uresti said of the changes underway around the school.

As 7 Action News caught up with Uresti crews could be seen for several city blocks working, pouring concrete and making change.

"The sidewalks are just here to make it - make Detroit - look beautiful because if you just walk around Detroit, you'll see a few areas that aren't too nice," Johan Romero said.  Romero is a fifth grader at Bennett Elementary.  "With these new sidewalks, it'll make Detroit look nicer."

The SRTS Grant money will also allow the school to make improvements to their infrastructure and offer learning opportunities for the kids to learn more about biking and walking between school and their home.

"I think everyone has that same feeling when they're growing up that the place they're growing up is special and it builds who they are," Uresti said.  "This lets the kids who are growing up right here, right now feel a little bit more proud to live in Detroit.  There's a lot of negative.  It's nice to have a positive."

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