As far as their teacher is concerned, the five Perkins High School juniors got an A-plus.
Ask Perkins Township trustees, however, and they’ll probably say those five students who launched a novel appeal at Tuesday’s township meeting are testament to the sway of an involved citizenry.
“They definitely got an A-plus,” said Tim Obergefell, the students’ high school government teacher. “This group has gone above and beyond what the assignment was.”
The five students include Chrissy Thompson, 16; Erika Taylor, 17; Alyssa Bass, 16; Danyele Bass, 17; and Amanda Schroeder, 17.
As part of a class assignment, the girls had to find something in Perkins Township or its school district that was longing for change or improvement. It was a broad assignment, but they settled on the feasiblity of sidewalks on Ohio 250 and embarked on a month of research, the results of which they delivered to township trustees on Tuesday.
Rife with informational slides and graphics and an account of a relative who was involved in a pedestrian-versus-vehicle accident on Ohio 250, the girls’ 10-minute presentation touted the benefits of sidewalks from Strub Road to the Ohio 2 overpass.
“Really, it’s to save lives,” Erika said.
Safety was indeed the thrust of the girls’ project, but their research took them much further. In the last month, they trekked through the halls of government and business, where they fleshed out particulars on everything from accident rates, tourism and traffic trends to the actual cost of sidewalk construction.
They weighed the health benefits of the proposal, discovering that communities with walker-friendly designs have healthier residents.
They offered the safety aspect, finding that more sidewalks means less pedestrians in the roadway.
They focused on the economic upside, suggesting that more walkers means more visitors in restaurants and local businesses.
Surprisingly, the girls also discovered at least three business owners were willing to help pay for some or all of the cost to build sidewalks in front of their properties, and a fair portion of the community supports the idea, too.
The group appealed earlier this month to the Sandusky Register to post an online poll, asking readers if they’d like to see sidewalks on Milan Road’s shopping strip. Of more than 1,500 poll respondents, 38 percent approved the idea outright and 35 percent approved if the project didn’t use tax dollars.
The girls estimated construction costs, minus the labor, at $645,750. It’s a hefty price tag in tough times, but the students offered solutions: grant money, lobby government officials and a divert eligible taxes to the project.
Dwelle said the girls could trigger a very real outcome if they continue pushing.
“There was as move by residents who decided they needed more lighting on 250,” Dwelle said, adding that the residents eventually succeeded in their quest some years ago. “You’re talking the same thing, only sidewalks instead of lighting.”
In addition to the five girls, there were more than 40 Perkins High School students who attended to watch Tuesday’s trustee meeting and earn credit for Obergefell’s government class.
Quipped one regular attendee at the meeting: “If we had as many taxpayers in this hall tonight as we do students, we’d all be a lot better off.”
While pleased with their project, the five girls said they may not be done just yet.
“I really want this to actually happen,” Chrissy said.
“It’s a school project,” Amanda said, “but it could turn out to be something much bigger.”