Bike program at Fritsch to help lower absenteeism

Kindergarten and first-grade students at Fritsch Elementary School take their first rides on new bikes donated by community partners.

Kindergarten and first-grade students at Fritsch Elementary School take their first rides on new bikes donated by community partners.
Photo by Jessica Garcia.

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A comprehensive program to help Carson City students build their bike-riding safety skills and celebrate their attendance launched Wednesday at Fritsch Elementary School.

Fritsch’s younger students were surprised to receive a set of bikes in an expansion program through an initiative from Mayor Lori Bagwell and donation from the HDR Foundation. Four of their older peers were honored for achieving perfect attendance during the 2023-24 school year.

“This is an exciting day for us,” said Fritsch Principal Dan Brown. “We were able to celebrate kids who had perfect attendance all year long. It’s a challenge to get kids to come to school now … but the biggest thing is we’re doing it with our kindergarten and first-grade students and they get to see how important it is to come to school and be able to see they may be rewarded for coming to school.”

Thanks to donations from partners such as Muscle Powered and Carson City Toyota, Fritsch’s new fleet of bikes will be accessible for kindergartners, first- and second-graders to learn riding and safety skills, Brown said, with the school’s older students already having had bikes available to them.

Fritsch said the school’s day began with 50 students riding their bikes to school with Nevada Moves. Bikes that have been donated will be kept in a trailer on bike racks and students can use them during PE time.

All Kids Bike, a national nonprofit teaching kindergarten students how to ride bikes during PE instruction time, has initiated the program at Fritsch and plans more celebrations at Carson City schools this month, supported by Bagwell. The program offers teacher training and certification, a fleet of 24 bikes, pedal conversion kits, helmets, an instructional bike for teachers, two rolling storage racks and access to a resource portal with live support.

As funding, HDR provided a $360,000 grant to All Kids Bike for the 2023-24 school year. The donation supports 40 schools in the United States where HDR employees live and work.

According to All Kids Bike, Fritsch will see a potential impact of up to 730 students who will benefit from this initiative in the next 10 years.

The program’s objective is to encourage as many children to start learning how to ride bikes as early as possible.

Scott Bohemier, Carson City’s Western Nevada Safe Routes to School coordinator and transportation planner, hosts education days and assemblies in the local schools to encourage pedestrian and bike safety.

“A lot of the kids, some of their reactions are fun,” Bohemier said. “We do a lot of talk about distracted driving, seeing (drivers) in cars. They really are active. We do interactions when fitting their helmets on bikes. We give them safety prizes at the end. It excites them. It’s really cool when I can come back to a school a year later and seeing them, I really feel good about them learning something new. It’s a great opportunity for them.”

Bagwell, who began her “Mayor’s Attendance Hall of Fame” initiative in January at Carson High School, hopes the campaign bolsters community support to lower chronic absenteeism.

“I see the businesses recognize that they have an opportunity to stress the importance of children going to school with their employees,” she said. “I’m looking for potentially stepping it up a little and having businesses get certificates for the Mayor’s Hall of Fame so employees can recognize if children have good attendance and certain things they’ll have. I talked with one business that said they may do this every six months or per quarter and have an employee appreciation day for their kids going to school.”

Bagwell said contributing donors to the bike program include Bob Fredlund of Nevada Style, Widow’s Mite, Southwest Gas, Dana Whaley, Renee Plain of In Plain Sight, Monday Night Football, Crew, Carson City Toyota, Glen Eagles Restaurant, Sherry McConnell, Allison McKenzie, Harriet Eckerman, Hop and Mae Adams Foundation, Greater Nevada Credit Union and Battle Born Chapter DAR.

Bagwell said the whole purpose is to motivate children to go to school and to reach the parents and was glad to see some payoff. School rates continue to improve, and Bagwell credited district personnel.

District engagement and attendance specialist Megan Newman spoke to the specific updates since January. Fritsch’s chronic absenteeism rate has decreased from 21.4% in January to 16.7% this month, Newman said.

“I just want us to be mindful of the people doing the work behind the scenes,” Newman said. “They’re doing engagement with the parents, and they’re doing a lot of great work.”

Other CCSD celebration events are planned throughout May to reward students for perfect or improved attendance, Newman said.


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