Muheim Elementary School has received a $10,000 grant for students to participate in active modes of travel including walking, cycling, skating, and scootering to school through the Active School Travel (AST) pilot program.
Town of Smithers councillor and Muheim parent Greg Brown initiated the grant application with enthusiastic support from the Parent Advisory Committee and Principal Craig Mcaulay.
“This is an exciting program to support students, safety and create more opportunities for children to increase their physical activity,” Mcaulay said.
Community Safety Officer Matt Davey is working closely with the pilot program to improve awareness and safety for drivers, parents, and students because Muheim is in a central location and can become congested, causing significant challenges for traffic and especially bus drivers trying to navigate around pedestrians and parked vehicles.
“We are taking a three-phased approach to safety and using alternate forms of transportation with the parents and students at Muheim School. It is a very busy location, so we thought it best to approach students and parents differently.”
Our first phase is the enforcement portion, which entails stepping up information to the parents and encouraging them to park kitty-corner to the school, in the open lot across from Home Hardware. The school is also actively putting out bright orange cones to block off the ends of parking on the streets directly in front of the school, during the school day. These are the most dangerous areas for pedestrians and the bus drivers to see children crossing the road if their view is blocked by a car,” Davey said.
“The least favourite part of my job is to write tickets, so we are actively working with the parents in where they park. Thankfully, I’ve mostly given out warnings this year. Also, the crossing across from the playground has a really bright flashing light now, so that’s been working great to make drivers aware to slow down around the school.
The second phase is in conjunction with Bike to Work Week and deals with fun and safety with the kids, Davey said. During that week he will also be helping other agencies such as the Brain Injury Association with bike safety through a bike parade, safety information groups and the use and proper wearing of bike helmets.
“We will combine kindergarten and first grades from three of our local grade schools, including Muheim, to participate.”
Phase three will be a media campaign and will involve the kids.
“There will be a Facebook page on safety around Muheim School, information around being more physically active and using bikes, walking and using skateboards and scooters to get to school.”
The kids will also be colouring maps showing the proper zones to park in around the school, and the hazard zones. Those maps will go on the windshields of cars improperly parkerd.
“I’m pretty pleased this year, awareness has been raised about the dangers around parking, busses and students at Muheim school. It has been a situation that has worried me for a long time,” Davey said.
One unique approach to being part of the AST is that Muheim will use a portion of the funding to establish a bicycle lending program, involving some of the older students in fixing and refurbishing gently used bikes. Funding will be used to purchase tools to teach basic mechanical repairs and maintenance, led by teachers trained as part a provincial initiative for educators.
Muheim is accepting donations of gently used bicycles that can be repaired and then used in the bike lending library program. Potential donors can contact Eric Dufresne, at email@example.com.