By Andrew Cluley-AAPS Director of Communications
For 40 years kids in Ann Arbor have been getting important advice about how to be safe in their home, their community and at school thanks to the Safety Town Program. This morning the Ann Arbor Public Schools and the many partners that make Safety Town an integral part of growing up in Ann Arbor celebrated at Dicken Elementary as they welcomed the young fives and kindergarteners that are currently enrolled in the program.
Superintendent Jeanice Swift says the program helps meet the district’s top priority, which is safety. “That priority comes even before our critical mission of teaching and learning, and so we are delighted with 40 years of Safety Town,” Swift says.
This summer about 720 children participating in the program will receive tips on how to safely interact with dogs, water, electricity and more. At the heart of the program is the miniature “town” where generations of children have learned to navigate safely as pedestrians and cyclists. Interacting with miniature stop and yield signs, and even a tiny functioning stoplight. Safety Town has also always had a “smoke” house experience where they learn how to safely evacuate a burning structure by staying low and checking for heat before opening doors.
Caroline Stout has a son currently participating in the program, and her daughter went through it three years ago. She says the program does a great job of teaching the information in a way kids can understand and share with their family. “It’s been a great way to teach them some things that maybe as a parent I forget, or don’t think of soon enough,” Stout says.
The program came to Ann Arbor thanks to Iris Mintz who had attended and later taught a similar program in her hometown in Ohio. Mintz introduced the idea of the program to Ann Arbor Police Chief Kenneth Klinge and Board of Education Trustee Wendy Barhydt when she moved to Ann Arbor. The three worked together over a couple of years to raise $6,000 to launch the program with support from AAPS, the police department and the Kiwanis Club.
Over the years the list of partners has grown, with the Ann Arbor Fire Department, Huron Valley Ambulance, DTE, and the Huron Valley Safe Kids Coalition participating as well. Safety Town is now coordinated by the AAPS Community Education and Recreation Department and has served an estimated 28,000 kids over the last 40 years.
These partnerships allow kids to meet and interact with police and fire department officials in a safe setting, so they will know how to interact with them in an emergency. New Ann Arbor Police Chief Michael Cox says it’s exciting to be in a community with this type of a program. “People talk about community policing or certainly policing with the public, these kind of programs are exactly what you know define community policing,” he says.