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Let’s get more Simcoe Muskoka students walking and wheeling to school

Oct 01, 2019
SIMCOE MUSKOKA – This school year, students in Simcoe and Muskoka will be encouraged to walk and wheel on the journey to and from school through a collaborative project called “on the MOVE” — an active school travel partnership project led by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit set to launch on October 2 with two big events.

SIMCOE MUSKOKA – This school year, students in Simcoe and Muskoka will be encouraged to walk and wheel on the journey to and from school through a collaborative project called “on the MOVE” — an active school travel partnership project led by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit set to launch on October 2 with two big events.

One event will take place at Mountain View Elementary School in Collingwood starting with a student activity at 8:40 a.m., followed by a media launch with speakers at 9 a.m. The other event will be in Bradford West Gwillimbury where all public elementary schools will participate in a student event starting at 8:15 a.m., followed by a media launch and speakers at 9:30 a.m. at St. Angela Merici Catholic School in Bradford West Gwillimbury. 

Students, teachers, parents, community members and elected officials will attend these events, which coincides with International Walk to School Day and celebrates the launch of this project. These events serve as excellent examples of municipal, school and community commitment to getting kids moving on their school journey. There will also be additional student events held at public elementary schools in Wasaga Beach and Stayner.

“Money spent to increase active school travel makes a difference,” said Simcoe Muskoka Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner. “It builds healthy children by supporting physical and mental well-being and it improves attention and alertness for better academic performance. Physical skills and activity habits started as children often continue into adulthood and help ensure health and wellness over their lifetime.”  Environmental and social benefits can also result from this project, he added.

The goal of “on the MOVE” is to increase the number of students using active forms of transportation to and from school. Funding of $110,600 for the project has been provided through the Ontario Active School Travel (OAST) Fund, a program of Green Communities Canada (GCC).

A Simcoe Muskoka Active School Travel Steering Committee has been formed to guide this project. The Simcoe County District School Board is a key partner on the committee as it is only through their support that this project can take place in schools. There is also representation on the committee from 11 municipalities, including the County of Simcoe, Barrie, Midland, Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Clearview, Bradford West Gwillimbury, Innisfil, District of Muskoka, Bracebridge and Huntsville as well as the Environment Network and the Health Unit. Project partners will be working with up to 20 schools developing activities to encourage active transportation to and from school.

The Steering Committee notes that these projects often result in safer school zones with less traffic, improved air quality and stronger community relationships, all of which improve quality of life for students, families and the community. The Steering Committee encourages students from across Simcoe and Muskoka to join fellow students in Collingwood, Bradford West Gwillimbury and globally to walk or wheel for their school journey on October 2 in support of International Walk to School Day.

Bracebridge Deputy-Mayor Rick Maloney states, “The Town of Bracebridge is excited to be a partner with the Simcoe Muskoka Active Schools Travel Project. Encouraging students to walk, bike, run, or use some other form of person propelled transportation supports children physically and academically, and assists in reducing traffic at our schools, helping to decrease pollution and making them safer places.”

The Trillium Lakelands District School Board has endorsed the project and Principal David Crawford from Macaulay Public School states “We are pleased to be participating in the School Travel Planning initiative supported by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. This program aligns perfectly with our School Improvement Plan for Student Achievement and Well-Being. We're confident that our involvement will result in healthier children, less traffic and pollution, a safer parking lot at the beginning and end of the day and improved academic performance”. Huntsville Public School will also be participating as one of the schools in Muskoka.

"In recent decades we have seen a significant decline in walking to school among children across the province,” said Kate Berry, OAST program director with GCC. "This initiative is a great opportunity to reverse this downward trend and rebuild a culture of active school travel. We look forward to collaborating with and supporting our local partners in Simcoe and Muskoka to implement this exciting initiative.”

To learn more about the Simcoe Muskoka’s Active School Travel Project call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520, Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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