Council moves on kids’ safety village in PSL

Guns. Cars. Fire. Pools. It’s a dangerous world out there for children.

In 2014, 8,610 St. Lucie County children were treated for accidental injuries. Eleven others died. The sobering statistics are the driving force behind Safe Kids St. Lucie County’s push to create a Children’s Safety Village in Port St. Lucie.

The biggest question looming over the project – where would it be located – may finally have been answered: Ravenswood community complex, on SW Ravenswood Lane near the pool and fire station.

“The site is just sitting there, fallow,” Port St. Lucie Mayor Gregory Oravec said during a recent City Council meeting to discuss approving a site option. “I think it’s great. We just need to bring it to life as quickly as possible.”

Interim City Attorney Jim Stokes cautioned that he would need to do his homework to ensure that the creation of the safety village meets the criteria for being a “community center” under the deed restrictions.

“We’re kind of at a standstill until we have a location,” Councilwoman Stephanie Morgan said of the project, explaining that the agency first needs a site before it can finalize its costs and generate a completed business plan. “This is the first of many, many steps,” she said, and added that once a location is secured, “then it’s full steam ahead.”

Ronda Cerulli, of Safe Kids St. Lucie County, said she envisions a multi-faceted facility similar to that of a fairly new Children’s Safety Village in Cobb County, Georgia.

The village would have a streetscape complete with sidewalks, roads, traffic signals and signs – all so children can practice pedestrian and cycling safety. There would be a fire house (not fire station) complete with a kitchen, living room and bedroom so children can practice escape routes in the event of fire emergencies complete with mock smoke.

There would be a small, indoor pool for swim lessons and pool safety sessions. And, there would be classroom space for other instruction.

Already, Safe Kids St. Lucie County visits schools, teaching children about various safety issues. But it’s cumbersome, time-consuming and reaches a limited number of students at a time.

For instance, Safe Kids’ bike rodeos take six days and 63 hours to reach 252 first- through fourth-graders by going school to school. At the Safety Village, it would take 2 days and 18 hours to reach the same students – plus they’d get water and fire safety training, too.

“They learn better hands-on,” Cerulli said, and the village would better facilitate that interaction.

Cerulli also wants to incorporate cybersafety to teach children how to mitigate the risks of the Internet. The program started in Canada and has been adopted by Cobb County’s Safety Village. Students are brought into the village and given tablets and other smart devices. They’re told they can play whatever they like and do whatever they want on the tablets; profiles do not need to be created.

For some time, the kids are allowed loose with the devices. Later, it is shared with them that the “kid” they thought they were talking to was actually a staff member or officer (someone there on campus). Cerulli said it helps them to recognize that not everything is as it seems online.

Currently, there is no estimated price tag for the Children’s Safety Village in Port St. Lucie. That will come later once organizers finalize their business plan. To help offset the costs, though, organizers will be seeking sponsorships. Businesses can sponsor buildings in the Village and have their name displayed.

Government grants, too, might be available, but they are typically limited in amount, Cerulli said.

At the end of the day, the goal is reduce the number of unintentional injuries and deaths of children.

“When a child dies, it sends ripples throughout the community,” she said. “And we want to end those ripples.”  

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