A longtime right of passage for incoming kindergarten children has suffered from low enrollments in recent years prompting planners to cut the Middletown Safety Town program in half.
The week-long program youngsters teaching school, traffic and fire safety began in 1977 by Harvey Poff of the Middetown police department. The free program, sponsored by businesses and the Safety Council of Southwestern Ohio, has morning and afternoon sessions for eight weeks this year.
But next year that number will drop to four weeks, according to Sgt. Andy Warrick of the Middletown police.
“It is basically because of enrollment,” Warrick said. “And I hate to see it cut, but participation has declined in recent years.”
Poff ran the summer program until 1984, when Officer Mike Davis took over the helm for 26 years until he retired from the department in 2010. Officer Phil Salm then became the safety teacher and Officer Ken King took over this summer.
“I think it is the best kept secret in town. Nobody knows about it,” King said. “I want everyone to have a chance to attend. People have been bringing children through the program for generations. We need to get the word out to new residents.”
Both King and Warrick said if they have more sign ups, more sessions can be added.
“We have also moved graduation to Saturdays, so that the parents and whole family can get involved,” Warrick said.