NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - The hard-working crossing guards were feeling the love today in New Providence. They are up early and on this chilly morning, by 7:30 a.m., they were already waiting for their little charges to come walking or running towards the elementary school.
Near Allen Roberts School, Kelly Wolfe and Mary Ruggerio were crossing the students as they always do, but today they were also collecting valentines from the students. “These kids are so polite,” said Rugerrio, as each one walked past her from Cameron Road, you could hear a “Happy Valentine's Day!” from almost every student.
Just a half a block down at Hawthorne and Jones Drive, Kelly Wolfe was having the same experience. She was holding her stop sign in one hand and collecting little cards and gifts with the other. Wolfe grew up in New Providence and was in the last eighth grade class to graduate from AWR. As a large group of students came down from Pearl Street, she signaled to her own children waiting in her car that it was time to head to school. Over on Crane Circle, crossing guard Andrew Palubniak was also accepting valentines, “These kids are great,” he said, as he leaned over to take a card from a first grader.
The Safe Routes To School (SRTS) program is a program under the Federal Highway Administration that aims to improve the health of children of all abilities by encouraging them to walk and bike to school. In New Jersey, the State Department of Transportation works with local communities to fulfill the goal of encouraging walking and riding to school a safe and fun alternative to being driven each day. It inspires children to be more physically active and reduces fuel consumption, air pollution and the amount of traffic around schools. While it is a federal program, the work is done by local volunteers. They are helped by school officials, teachers, members of the police and DPW departments.
New Providence has even created interactive maps, so people can find their way around town on paths and sidewalks, and drop off zones away from schools where children can walk together to their school. Those bright flags at pedestrian crosswalks are another innovation brought to the borough by SRTS volunteers.