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Colchester receives state grant to improve school sidewalks

COLCHESTER, IL (WGEM) — Have you ever thought about how safe your children are when they walk to school?

It’s a safety concern for students in the West Prairie school district in Colchester, Illinois, which will soon change, thanks to a state grant.

The sidewalks around South Elementary are falling apart and don’t connect around town, making it unsafe for students who walk to school. But, there’s now a plan in place to fix that.

Students walk to South Elementary school on these sidewalks every day. They’re the same sidewalks that Sheri Beck said makes her nervous.

“Kids, they walk down the street because there’s no place for them to walk otherwise,” Beck said. “There’s just not enough sidewalks.”

That’s soon going to change, as the city of Colchester was awarded a state grant through the Safe Routes to School program, to fix up and add to the sidewalks.

It’s a project superintendent Carol Kilver said will make it safer for students.

“A lot of the sidewalk work is original to the city, so we’re not only looking at widening, but also repair, making it safe for people to travel to and from our schools every day,” Kilver said.

Kilver said the new sidewalks will accommodate disabilities. She also plans to connect the current sidewalk that runs from the middle school to the elementary school, as students travel on it daily.

City engineer Doug Erickson said the sidewalks along Roberts Street are part of the ones being redone in an effort to eventually fix all the connecting sidewalks in town.

“They want to continue and finish this stretch through the elementary school and middle school and then start connecting neighborhoods with some of this money, too,” Erickson said.

He said that includes connecting the school to the local park, something Beck said she’s excited for.

“It’s great,” Beck said. “The kids won’t be walking in the streets, they’ll be safer cause they’ll be walking on the sidewalk. That’s the biggest thing.”

The city engineer said they plan to get bids out in the fall, with hopes of completing the project by the time kids start school.

The city was awarded the full $200,000  grant through the Safe Routes to School program by IDOT.


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