Time to reflect: Soldotna students receive safe winter gear

When many Soldotna area students travel to school, they reflect on their schoolwork. Now their clothes will reflect as well.

To better ensure the safety of students, the city of Soldotna has partnered with several local organizations in order to supply reflective hats to kids.

The headwear will be provided to students of four Soldotna area elementary schools — Redoubt Elementary, K-Beach Elementary, Soldotna Elementary and Soldotna Montessori.

The neon-yellow, knit hats include a reflect strip and the logo of each respective school.

Each school will also hold a special assembly to distribute the hats, as well as inform students about the importance of being able to be seen in dark conditions.

John Czarnezki, Soldotna city planner, said that the goal of the program is to keep kids safe.

“With a winter like this, without a lot of snow, there’s nothing really to reflect light off of,” Czarnezki said.

“When it’s dark, it’s really dark. Not all of our streets have lights, and not all of our streets have sidewalks, so kids that are walking or biking to school are at risk.”

Czarnezki said that the program was funded through grant money from the Safe Route to School program.

He said about $5,000 was left over from the grant, and an additional $4,000 was raised by various organizations including the Elks Club and the Central Peninsula Health Foundation. Alaska Industrial Hardware provided the hats at a discounted price.

“We were trying to come up with a unique way to not only spend the final few dollars,” Czarnezki said. “But the program is about getting kids to school safely, so we came up with the idea of getting hats out there.”

Czarnezki said that the idea came from some areas in the Northwest where some kids were provided with reflective umbrellas.

“We thought, ‘Oh, that’s an awesome idea,’ except it doesn’t rain here (in the winter),” Czarnezki said. “We thought hats were the next best idea.”

Not only will the hats help the students travel more safely, Czarnezki said they serve another purpose as well.

“The other benefit is that a lot of kids don’t come with the right gear, or can’t afford the right gear,” Czarnezki said. “Handing out hats this time of year is a positive thing just so kids have warm clothing.”

K-Beach elementary held its safety assembly on Friday. Nate Crabtree, the school’s principal, said the reaction from the students was wonderful.

He said that teachers at the school cover different aspects pertaining to safety throughout the year, but thinks the hats are a good idea, especially with the school mascot on them.

“There’s pride throughout the community,” Crabtree said.

Sarina Wilkinson, a fifth grader at K-Beach Elementary, said that while she has sometimes worn dark clothes in the winter, she’s going to try and be more cautious.

“I’m going to start by wearing my hat,” Wilkinson said.

Reach Ian Foley at Ian.foley@peninsulaclarion.com

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