Sunderland Elementary recognized for non-vehicular school transportation

  • Sunderland Elementary School. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Darius Modestow, superintendent of the Frontier Regional and Union 38 school districts, left, and Sunderland Elementary School Principal Ben Barshefsky participated in the school’s Walk and Roll to School Day on May 30. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Sunderland Elementary School was recently recognized by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation for its participation in the Massachusetts Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program, which encourages taking non-vehicular modes of transportation to school. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/18/2019 4:51:36 PM

SUNDERLAND — The state Department of Transportation recently recognized more than 140 partners of the Massachusetts Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program, which encourages taking non-vehicular modes of transportation to school.

But representatives from Sunderland Elementary School, one of the institutions recognized, were unable to attend the ceremony. That’s because it was held the same day as the spring Walk and Roll to School Day — when many students, parents, and faculty decide to commute to school by walking or taking bicycles, scooters or roller blades as part of the SRTS Program.

“The response has been tremendous,” said Matt Howell, organizer of the school’s program, adding that this is the seventh year a Walk and Roll to School Day has been held in Sunderland. The event is now held once in the spring and once in the fall. The May 30 event, Howell said, had roughly 300 participants, including about 140 students.

Howell, who is also the school’s coordinator for English learners, said it was unfortunate no one from Sunderland Elementary could attend the Boston ceremony, but the state’s recognition is still appreciated.

He explained that approximately 40 to 50 students — known as Walk and Roll All-Stars — regularly commute on foot and bicycle, and have been rewarded with a bicycle bell or a flashing light that can be attached to a backpack to increase visibility to passing motorists.

Howell said a coordinator with the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, or MassBike, visited Sunderland Elementary about a week before the ceremony to teach students about bicycle safety. Howell said the SRTS Program’s objectives are to encourage non-motorized commutes to school, for health and environmental reasons, and to work ensure bicycle pathways are accessible to make these commutes as safe as possible.

According to a MassDOT press release, SRTS offers pedestrian and bicycle training activities, walk and bike assessments of the existing infrastructure, and arrival/dismissal observations at schools.

“Giving schools and communities the necessary tools to create safer routes and encourage their students to implement active transportation has always been our goal with this program,” Massachusetts Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver said in a statement. “We are pleased to see so many municipal and education leaders embrace the Safe Routes to School Program.”

According to state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, the Massachusetts Commission on the Future of Transportation found that 10 to 14 percent of morning rush hour emissions come from adults dropping off children at schools. She also said transportation makes up the majority of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Reach Domenic Poli at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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