PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As safety on the roads for cyclists and pedestrians is still a big concern across Portland, one agency is working to prepare as many students as possible, now extending their teachings to high schoolers.

Traditionally, the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Safe Routes to Schools program focused on teaching the youngest students from K-8th, traffic basics like riding a bike and learning hand signals. Now, those teachings will be adapted to also include high schoolers as many find alternate ways to get to school on their own every day.

“We don’t necessarily have a manual for how to learn to ride the bus, how to learn to bike in the city and what signals to use as you’re traveling around, how to read the street markings on our streets,” said Hannah Schafer, spokesperson for PBOT.

With grant funding through the Oregon Department of Transportation, the expansion to high schools in Portland’s five school districts will focus on empowering students with these skills and how best to be safe. The grant is also helping kick off a new high school Transportation Academy in the Parkrose School District where many students travel along busy roads like NE Sandy which can come with added hazards.

“We’re going to be working with them directly, helping train their teachers so that they can do some of that teaching and incorporate that into the lessons they’re giving to students,” said Schafer.

With the Parkrose program, PBOT will work directly with the district’s Elevate Oregon program, which provides mentorship and guidance to at-risk youth in and out of the classroom.

“Having that resource for our kids to learn ways they can travel back and forth or even just learning more about their neighborhood, taking that ownership of their own neighborhood and what’s around,” said Sarah Dougherty, program director for Elevate Oregon. “In the middle and high school level, we are lucky to have a class period where we get that one-on-one intimate time to be that positive influence for those kids.”

PBOT says they hope the expansion of Safe Routes to Schools to older students can also improve how best to communicate the need for street safety — and have it stick.

“What would a safety campaign look like to you that would really speak to you and your peers,” said Schafer. “Maybe we can work together with them and help them help us find better ways to tell their peers about being safe.”

As these programs roll out to new audiences, PBOT says they’re already working with area school districts to update their ongoing Safe Routes agreements to include the high schools, with plans to begin lessons soon.