Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Crossing guard Kimberly Helm stops traffic on 3100 South near 5300 West by Valley Crest Elementary School.

WEST VALLEY CITY — Federal Express presented Valley Crest Elementary School with a check for $10,000 Wednesday to help the school improve safety conditions for child pedestrians.

The money is expected to be used to redesign an inefficient parking lot at the school, which sits in the center of bustling development.

"Our whole goal is to keep you safe," Joni Halverson, a social worker at the school, told its students. "We've got to take some steps to make some changes."

Enforcing seat belt and booster-seat rules for kids under 80 pounds will also be of importance for the task force and the fifth- and sixth-grade safety patrol at Valley Crest. The task force plans to work through 2008 to add a school zone flasher, relocate another school zone flasher, remove the existing crosswalk and sandblast existing school markings, add new school crossing and traffic calming signage, and add new ramps to improve the permanent walking conditions for child pedestrians.

"We need to make changes to make sure everybody is safe," said Valley Crest principal Jan McClure.

Since 1985, when the majority of students traveled to Valley Crest via the bus system, more and more now are being shuttled or carpooled by parents and neighbors, creating increased congestion in the school's small adjacent parking lot and blocking the exits.

Gayna Breeze, chairwoman of the school's pedestrian safety task force, said traffic on 3100 South is expected to increase as more commercial properties move into the area, and "growth has brought additional challenges and safety concerns." Enrollment at the school is slated to reach more than 1,000 students in coming years, which Breeze said will increase foot and bicycle traffic by students.

"We need you to slow down, be careful and think smart," she told students, even admonishing them to warn their parents when they sense a poor driving decision, including U-turns and parking on the wrong side of the streets near the school during its busiest times.

In Salt Lake County, of the nearly 500 pedestrians hit by cars every year, 150 are children 14 or younger. Pedestrian injury remains the second leading cause of accidental death among young children and every year, more than 30,000 of the nation's children are hospitalized from pedestrian-related injuries, according to the Salt Lake Valley Health Department.

"We just never know what's going to happen," said Robin Hermansen, a FedEx outreach coordinator. FedEx helps the task force hold bike rallies and other activities that encourage safe behavior on the roads and sidewalks.

"This is a step in the right direction but this is only the beginning," Breeze said. The task force will be collecting comments and feedback from parents and community members on how to best use the FedEx grant. The school was chosen to receive the grant for their dedication to making an environmental change that will affect student safety.

E-mail: [email protected]