Walk to School Wednesday

By Miriam King, Bradford Times

Only St. Angela Merici, St. Marie of the Incarnation and Chris Hadfield Public School were slated to participate in the Active Transportation Committee's Fall version of 'Walk 'n Wheel Wednesday' on October 5, International Walk to School Day.

The Committee had hoped that four Bradford schools would participate, encouraging parents and students to leave the car at home, and walk, bicycle, skateboard, rollerblade or scooter to school, but W.H. Day Elementary – one of the first schools to get involved in the program – was unable to participate this time.

At the last minute, the Parent Council at Fred C. Cook Public School opted in, recognizing the benefits of encouraging kids to get active, and reducing traffic congestion and pollution by reducing reliance on automobiles.

Chair of the Active Transportation Committee, Councillor Gary Baynes was delighted. “It's a great test because the Parent Council organized this,” he said – a sustainable approach, supplementing the work of the 11 members of his Committee. With a goal of encouraging all 8 urban elementary schools to eventually participate in the Walk to School program, parent involvement is “the only way we can do this,” Baynes said, noting that the FCC parents are hoping to make every Wednesday “Walk to School Wednesday.”

Parent Council and Committee members were joined by South Simcoe Police, Innisfil Fire & Rescue, Town staff and Council members, including Mayor Rob Keffer, who handed out ribbons to the students as they arrived at the school.

There were organic apples for every classroom, donated by Avalon Orchard in Innisfil, and brand new bicycle helmets to be won – four at each participating school, donated by Canadian Tire Store.

“It's quite a welcoming committee,” said Fred C. Cook acting principal Anne Arksey. “I think it's a great initiative. It raises awareness. It promotes the independence of children, and that's really important.”

With only a short time to organize participation, Walk 'n Wheel Wednesday had only a slight impact on the number of cars parked along the south side of Fletcher St., dropping off children – but the crowds, ribbons, Police officers, firefighters, and flashing lights of a police cruiser definitely raised awareness of the campaign.

“Walk 'n Wheel Wednesday went well,” said Councillor Baynes afterwards, noting that there was “great feedback from staff, students and parents at all four schools,” and a very high level of participation, particularly at Chris Hadfield PS.

The Active Transportation Committee will be initiating additional Walk 'n Wheel Wednesdays in the Spring and Fall of 2017, hoping to add 2 schools each time - and hoping that the concept catches on, at Bradford West Gwillimbury's elementary schools.