Planning for how kids get to school when they head back for in-person learning in the fall

Active School Travel Peterborough expanding school travel planning to include Selwyn Township

It's better for students' health and the environment if they have active transportation options when they head back for in-person learning in the fall. Pictured are parents, guardians, teachers, school staff, and other community members in May 2019 during a walkabout of the Immaculate Conception School area in Peterborough's East City, an important opportunity to hear directly from community experts about active school travel challenges and opportunities. (Photo courtesy of GreenUP)
It's better for students' health and the environment if they have active transportation options when they head back for in-person learning in the fall. Pictured are parents, guardians, teachers, school staff, and other community members in May 2019 during a walkabout of the Immaculate Conception School area in Peterborough's East City, an important opportunity to hear directly from community experts about active school travel challenges and opportunities. (Photo courtesy of GreenUP)

Summer is nearly here, and schools are continuing with remote learning for the final weeks of this school year.

It is understandable that people are not really thinking about how they travel to school right now but, here at Active School Travel Peterborough, it’s on our minds a lot.

While many families in Peterborough walk or wheel to school, many also drive. When we do get back to in-person learning, it will be more important than ever to encourage active school travel.

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Mobility data shows that, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, car use has increased dramatically. Data from post-lockdown countries shows that car dependence is not reducing as COVID-19 restrictions are reduced.

Luckily, a number of local school communities are on their way to addressing travel barriers with school travel planning, and that number is growing. Funding from Green Communities Canada and the Ontario government is allowing Active School Travel Peterborough to build upon efforts at schools in the City of Peterborough and the Township of Asphodel-Norwood, and to expand into the Township of Selwyn.

The school travel planning process focuses on the five Es approach: education, encouragement, engineering, enforcement, and evaluation. Recently, a sixth ‘E’ was added: equity. Equity has entered into discussions of active travel to allow consideration for how identity affects every aspect of one’s life.

Students at St. Paul Catholic Elementary School in Norwood participate in a planning exercise during the creation of their school travel plan in November 2018. (Photo courtesy of GreenUP)
Students at St. Paul Catholic Elementary School in Norwood participate in a planning exercise during the creation of their school travel plan in November 2018. (Photo courtesy of GreenUP)

This process works directly with the school community and is tailored to the specific needs of each school. Over the past three years, we have worked closely with communities in Peterborough and Norwood to meet the goals of parents and teachers alike.

“Through our school board’s be well plan, we strive to help students become healthy, active, engaged citizens,” shares Joan Carragher, director of education for the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board. “Active school travel has been shown to help students reach necessary daily physical activity targets and arrive at school with a clear mind, ready to learn.”

“Working alongside GreenUP, our students have been engaged in deep learning with respect to their modes of travel and the impact transportation has on their school communities and the environment. By bringing various stakeholders together, the school travel planning process continues to identify improvements to decrease traffic congestion and create safer school zones.”

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We learned a lot from the first school travel planning schools and look forward to celebrating the completed plans with school communities in the coming school year. We’ve also developed a brand-new program based on the feedback families provided.

What do you do when your kids are too big for the stroller, but still have difficulty keeping up while walking? This in-between period is a challenge for many families.

The solution? Access to a scooter can help balance the different speeds of various family members, making active school travel possible even on busy days. Active School Travel Peterborough’s new ‘Roll & Stroll’ project is getting families moving together. Five schools will be piloting scooter parking and pedestrian safety education in support of school travel planning.

Students work on an "I Spy" activity in May 2019, designed to assist them with navigating Peterborough East City neighbourhood, during a Jane's Walk event planned in partnership with Active School Travel Peterborough. (Photo courtesy of GreenUP)
Students work on an “I Spy” activity in May 2019, designed to assist them with navigating Peterborough East City neighbourhood, during a Jane’s Walk event planned in partnership with Active School Travel Peterborough. (Photo courtesy of GreenUP)

While continuing work in Peterborough and Norwood, Active School Travel Peterborough is also extending into Selwyn Township. We’ve already been busy meeting schools and students this spring, and will spend the summer popping up in Bridgenorth, Ennismore, and Lakefield (and online) to gather community input.

Selwyn is the most populated municipality in the County of Peterborough and boasts an engaged population and a focus on climate action. School travel planning aligns with other innovative pilots geared towards encouraging sustainable travel, such as the Link — a public transit service connecting Selwyn Township, Curve Lake First Nation, and the City of Peterborough.

“The Township of Selwyn is excited to be bringing school travel planning to Selwyn schools this year,” says Anna Currier, former climate change coordinator for the Township of Selwyn. “School travel planning will help advance the township’s climate change action plan goals.”

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“As part of a continued partnership with GreenUP on community climate action initiatives, school travel planning is an opportunity to cultivate a culture of climate change awareness in the context of transportation,” Currier adds. “Through school travel planning, students, their families, and the wider community benefit from health-promoting transportation alternatives and opportunities to engage with their neighbourhoods and nature in a new way.”

“We’re excited to be involved in this project as a partner with Active School Travel Peterborough,” says Doug Saccoccia, manager of engineering and design for the County of Peterborough. “School travel planning aligns with the goals and objectives of the County’s Active Transportation Master Plan.”

We encourage all residents of Selwyn Township to get involved, have their voices heard, and help us build back better as we work towards a healthy, vibrant school walking culture. Please fill out the family travel survey today. Learn more and find the travel survey by visiting greenup.on.ca/school-travel-planning.

Students from the former King George Public School enjoy a walk on a local trail in October 2019. King George and Armour Heights public schools are being replaced by the new Kaawaate East City School, scheduled to open September 2021.  (Photo courtesy of GreenUP)
Students from the former King George Public School enjoy a walk on a local trail in October 2019. King George and Armour Heights public schools are being replaced by the new Kaawaate East City School, scheduled to open September 2021. (Photo courtesy of GreenUP)

For more information on school travel planning in the Township of Selwyn, email GreenUP project coordinator Sara Crouthers at sara.crouthers@greenup.on.ca.

For information on the Roll & Stroll project, email Active School Travel Peterborough chair Jaime Akiyama at jaime.akiyama@greenup.on.ca .

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