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      Safe routes paved for students' commute to school

      The Giem children ride their bikes or walk on this new sidewalk nearly every day. Before this path was built, they had to ride in the street or through the grass. Now they will finally have a safe way to get to school.

      "I think it's a great benefit for all the rest of the sidewalk is it does make me parents feel much more happy about having the kids outside knowing there in a safe area," Boyne City resident Mindy Giem said.

      Giem and her family lives just a block away from Boyne City Public Schools. In the last year, the district has joined the Health Department of Northwest Michigan to facilitate a Safe Routes to School Program. They teamed up with the city to get the paths built as soon as possible.

      "The biggest obstacle for students coming the schools always a safety concern for parents. Parents want their children to be active and get to school and in an enjoyable way by walking or biking, but their biggest concern is always is it safe for them," Boyne City Schools Elementary Principal Fred Sitkins said.

      The Safe Routes to School Program is a nation-wide initiative that has already been impletmented in more than 60 Michigan school districts. In addition to Boyne City, Gaylord and Pellston schools also have impletmented this new plan. And Charlevoix City Schools are developing an action plan to join the initiative. Once the sidewalks are built, the program focuses on developing healthy habits for students.

      "Research says even in the morning on way to school can make a difference to have them ready prepared for school," Sitkins said.

      And having the children healthy and prepared for school each day is just one of many reasons that Mindy Giem is thankful for this new addition to her neighborhood.

      "It's been great because my kids walk to school and now I know that they have a safe place that's designated for them to walk. I'm not concerned about traffic, I can literally see them walking on the sidewalk right from my house so that's nice," Giem said.