What was once a partially-used basketball court next to Sabal Palm Elementary School now is a freshly-painted bicycle park, complete with road signage and turning lanes for students to learn the rules of the road in a safe, enclosed environment.
Leon County School officials, including board member Darryl Jones, cut the ribbon on the new outdoor park, which at this time is only open to Sabal Palm students, in a Friday morning ceremony.
“We wanted to use some of the underutilized space in the school so we could do something fun for the kids,” said Principal Anicia Robinson.
The Knight Creative Communities Institute (KCCI) sponsored the project, which cost roughly $35,000, according to School Board documents. KCCI also is behind such local projects as the TLH letters at Cascades Park.
The park is made up of three areas: a basketball court, the bike paths and a grassy area with wooden ramps that KCCI executive director Betsy Couch calls an “off-roading experience” to help prepare students for biking in rough terrain.
The elementary school, off Eisenhower Street in the southwest of Tallahassee, is also a Title I school, meaning it qualifies for federal funding to help meet educational goals, because the school serves many students who come from low-income families.
The school has roughly 440 students, according to current district data. In the 2018-2019 school year, 86% of students qualified for free or reduced lunch, according to Florida Department of Education data.
Sabal Palm is a Community Partnership School, which means the school has a 25-year partnership with community institutions such as Florida A&M University’s College of Education, Florida State University’s PrimaryHealth and the Children’s Home Society of Florida.
Makedah Davis, a third-grade student at Sabal Palm Elementary, said on Friday that she is excited to start using the bike park during recess and after school “to get more practice” with bike riding.
Makedah said she is used to watching her parents drive in the car, and hopes to learn more about turn signals and street signs.
“(The park is) a game changer for the students, not only for the school but for the entire neighborhood,” Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna said. He noted the roads surrounding Sabal Palm Elementary are difficult to bike on, with narrow lanes and little room for pedestrians.
Sabal Palm holds an annual bike event for students, and Principal Anicia Robinson said the park is a better space for children.
“This keeps us safe, keeps us in an enclosed environment for the students and they can learn (to ride bikes),” Robinson said. “And it can be done throughout the entire school year.”
The bicycles are a combination of tricycles that Sabal Palm owns and donated bikes from Leon County Schools. Robinson said the school is also working with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office for bicycle donations.
“We’re all about teaching. That’s the entire goal,” Robinson said. She noted that the park could lay the foundation for students later in life learning how to drive.
KCCI is planning to create similar bike parks in the future. Couch said the team is already designing a bicycle park for Gilchrist Elementary, and could begin building in about six months.
“Kids have been pent up in their homes for months,” Hanna said. “I think now is more important than ever for our children to get out here, learn how to ride, ride responsibly, and do it in a safe manner.”