For people across the world, 2020 was a difficult year, particularly for those working in the health sector. At the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU), the team implementing the On The Move active school travel project faced the twin challenges of a work to rule campaign in area schools followed by COVID-19.
Despite these unforeseen circumstances, all 17 schools in Barrie and the wider Simcoe-Muskoka region participating in On The Move responded enthusiastically to the revival of program activities last September. Many schools began working to finalize their action plans in hopes of beginning to implement activities in 2021—although many have been put on hold again due to new public health restrictions.
Even amidst the scarcity of human resources (due to redeployment of SMDHU personnel during the pandemic), the project’s steering committee continued to meet and is currently analyzing the results of policy scans in two local municipalities. It is also working to implement On The Move-branded sidewalk stencils and wayfinding signs.
All the stakeholders have remained very committed, and strong partnerships have been developed between schools and municipalities. “One of the positive things about our project is that we have had a lot of municipalities keen on participating in the walkabouts to know what they could do to improve the infrastructure around schools,” says Christine Bushey, who leads On The Move on behalf of SMDHU.
Various promotional materials have been created for school administrators, educators and parents. This includes a communication kit consisting of banners and social media messages, and a collection of bilingual videos to promote AST.
On The Move is one of 28 community-based projects that received support from the Ontario Active School Travel Fund in 2018-20.