Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - The Rochester School District is among a half dozen school districts around Minnesota that will be given a share of over $1 million in state and federal grant money to promote safe walking and bicycling to and from school.

The grant money will be spread over three years to support Safe Routes to School initiatives aimed at encouraging students to walk or ride bikes. The Rochester School District will receive just over $200,000 to fund the hiring of a coordinator for the program.

“Increasing the safety of children walking and biking not only improves health but school attendance and academic achievement as well,” said Dave Cowan, MnDOT Safe Routes coordinator. ”Many school districts have a strong desire to support Safe Routes strategies, but limited staff time and resources are challenges. A local coordinator can transform school culture around walking and biking, ensuring more students arrive to school focused and ready to learn.”

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is in charge of the program and identified the other districts receiving grants as the St. Paul Public Schools, the South St. Paul School District, New Ulm Public Schools, and the Richfield School District.

Since 2005, MnDOT has awarded over $38 million in federal and state grant funds to communities throughout Minnesota to support Safe Routes to School. Officials say the majority of the money was used for infrastructure upgrades like sidewalks and trails.

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