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Walking trail coming to Jackson Middle School

The Jackson Middle School will see the addition of a new walking trail, due to a grant with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The Land and Water Conservation Fund Grant will fund half of the $90,000 project.

The trail will be used by the middle school students during the day, but before and after school hours, the trail will be open to the public. Jackson R-2 Director of Communications Merideth Pobst said the location at the middle school was perfect because it is in a highly populated area, both by residents and other district schools.

“You have West Lane, Orchard, the junior high and, of course, the middle school near by,” Pobst said. “You have four schools that are extremely close and can use it.” She added that nearby senior centers, Villas of Jackson and Jackson Manor could also use the trail after school hours.

“We are hoping people use it as much as we think that they will,” Pobst said. “It will be a great, safe place for early morning walkers, and I think it will also be used quite a bit in the evenings.”

The walking trail will be paved and will be adjacent to the current basketball field on the east side of the middle school. Handicap parking will be added on the basketball field for use after school hours.

The new trail will also surround a smaller gravel track that is currently there and will leave room for a future playground or pavilion, according to Pobst. She added that there are currently some community groups who may help fund the pavilion once the trail is in place.

During the Prop J improvements, the middle school started housing fifth graders, while seventh graders were moved to the junior high. With that change, Pobst said the school needed to better utilize the outdoor space.

“It’s a little younger building now, and there’s just not a lot of playground space there,” she said. “They have amazing gyms, but outside there is only the basketball court and the little gravel trail.”

The space will allow middle schoolers to get outside and learn, not only during P.E. and recess, but in their other classes as well.

“Before we decided to write the grant, we did a teacher survey to see if they would use the space,” Pobst said. “The responses were overwhelmingly positive, with English teachers talking about doing ‘brain breaks’ in that area and science teachers proposing possible experiments they could do.”

Superintendent John Link said the gravel track is already used daily by middle schoolers, with students choosing to walk during their lunch hour. He added that the site of the trail would most likely not be needed for any other district expansions

“At this point there really isn’t any future where we use that piece of land for anything because of traffic,” Link said. “It would be tough to put anther building there with the traffic the way it is.”

He added that if anything changed and they did eventually need that land, they would need to provide a similarly sized site for the walking trail to stay in accordance with the grant.

Work on the trail will start as soon as possible, with a planned spring opening if weather permits.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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