School will be back in session this September with many schools across the region returning in-person for the first time in over a year. Metro’s regional Safe Routes to School program has developed a suite of resources to support schools, local Safe Routes to School programs, and families on their journey to school.
Metro’s 2020 Back to School Toolkit, was developed over the course of a challenging year with input from local partners, schools, and families. It presents a suite of of resources to meet a broad array of needs. “This year, we wanted to be proactive in providing resources to schools and families to support a safe return to in-person learning, with a focus on the journey to school” said Noel Mickelberry, Metro’s Safe Routes to School Coordinator. “We also learned a lot over the past year about the unique challenges kids and families face now due to COVID-19’s impact on travel choices as well as interactions in public space fueled by hate and harassment targeting kids and families of color.”
What are Safe Routes?
Safe Routes to School is a national effort to encourage students and families to walk and roll to school – whether that’s on a bike, bus, scooter or mobility device.
Learn more by visiting the program page.
One strategy is a pilot program that Metro is developing in partnership with Oregon Walks and Upstream Learning LLC called Corner Greeters. “We heard from caregivers and parents, particularly with children of color, early on in 2020 about their concerns about hate and harassment when kids return to school. This pilot program will work with a limited number of schools this Fall as we learn how to best deploy this resource, and hone in on our training and support needs.” Noel shared.
The safety of our kids and students remains a priority in the midst of ever changing landscape of the public health crisis. “We appreciate the partnership with Metro, ODOT and other regional Safe Routes coordinators to develop a back to school safety campaign,” said Janis McDonald, Portland Bureau of Transportation Safe Routes to School Team Manager. “We want everyone to watch out for our kids as they make their way to school. Slow down. Be safe. Let’s continue to care for our community.”
Resources from Metro’s Safe Routes to School program that are available across the region include:
- School Routes are Everywhere. #DriveLikeIt campaign: This campaign includes social media images, lawn signs, TriMet bus ads and virtual backgrounds to spread the safety message to drivers that kids are returning to in-person learning. We are partnering with Oregon Department of Transportation and Portland Bureau of Transportation to promote the campaign statewide! Download campaign materials here.
- Corner Greeters pilot program: Corner Greeters are adults with training in traffic safety, bystander intervention, anti-hate strategies, and adult-youth interactions that are present along key school routes to support kids on their trip to school. Metro is partnering with Oregon Walks and Upstream Learning LLC to develop the training materials and support schools. “This past year has really been hard on our youth, especially youth of color,” said Ashton Simpson, Executive Director of Oregon Walks. “At Oregon Walks we are dedicated to ensuring all youth have a safe route to school. The impacts of COVID-19 coupled with hate & bullying directed towards youth of color are ongoing issues that must be addressed; I believe the Corner Greeters program is one immediate way we can address those concerns. This is also an excellent opportunity for adults in the community to get involved with youth and schools to create safe & fun routes for our youth to get the education they deserve.”
- $500 mini-grants for schools: 25 schools can receive a mini-grant to support implementation of a ‘Safe Routes Back to School’ strategy. Metro will support the mini-grants with additional resources to implement the chosen strategy, #DriveLikeIt lawn signs for the school, and tailored support for each school. Schools and nonprofit school PTOs are eligible to apply – learn more and apply here.
- The Safe Routes Back to School strategies include:
- Walking School Bus or Bike Train
- An organized group of students who walk or bike to school together with adult supervision, following a designated route with stops where students join the group.
- Park & Walk
- Developing an off-site location for parents to drop their children off and walk to the school site to reduce idling, congestion, and increase student physical activity
- On-site amenities
- Examples include: temporary traffic playground, additional bike/scooter storage, other ‘tactical urbanism’ on school site to enhance safety for walking/rolling
- School choice!
- Requires review by SRTS Coordinator for eligibility, but we encourage unique and creative ideas to support kids in walking and rolling to school safely.
Visit oregonmetro.gov/saferoutes to learn more about all of these resources and access even more materials and information.