Mild weather during the long winter nights on the Kenai has more kids out and about in the darkness. To help those on foot be more visible to motorists in the Central Peninsula area a collaborative effort between the City of Soldotna “Safe Routes to School” grant, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, Central Peninsula Health Foundation, Safe Kids Kenai Peninsula Coalition, Soldotna Lions Club, KPEA, and KPESA to create school assemblies at four elementary schools in Soldotna to promote safety and visibility for the dark wintery Alaska conditions. Last week at an assembly at Redoubt Elementary, Brad Nelson of Central Emergency Services rallied the students with safety tips before they were presented with reflective hats bearing their school mascot.
John Czarnezki with the City of Soldotna planner told the Dispatch in an interview about the program, “The City received a grant from the Safe Route to School program and we had some money left over and we decided to get some reflective gear on our kids so they would be more visible to drivers, bikers and other pedestrians in the darkness. The program is about getting kids to and from school safely, so we came up with the idea of getting reflective hats out there,” he said. Jane Fellman of Central Peninsula Hospital Safe Kids has been working to get reflective tape and gear on kids for years and applauded the joint effort, “This is wonderful with the Safe Routes to School and City of Soldotna and School District and all these other participants joining in we are multiplying our efforts and that’s great,” she said.
All four elementary schools in Soldotna received hats for all their students and teachers with the school mascot on the hat, “Something like 1,500 hats will going on kids heads this winter. We were able to afford all those hats because Alaska Industrial Hardware AIH got them for us at a reduced price with the Elks and Central Peninsula Health Foundation and some PTA’s chipping in get the mascots of each school on each hat to inspire the kids to wear them. Additionally Brad Nelson of CES has a little competition going on and as he rides around town he’ll be counting the kids that are wearing their hats and then will announce the winning school come spring,” said Czarnezki. “It’s been a great partnership with the KPBSD,” said Pegge Erkeneff, KPBSD spokesperson. “We started over a year ago when we were surveying parents about ways to get kids to bike and walk to school safely and to see all these kiddos with their reflective hats so excited shows the results of community collaboration to keep our kids safe,” she said. “It’s all about the kids,” said Redoubt principal John Pothast.