Back to school has a whole new meaning for students as many return to in-person learning after various virtual, hybrid, and socially-distant classroom environments last year. As Covid-19 shifted the approach in which kids were educated, adults were also re-educated on the many ways in which physically going to school benefits the day-to-day lives of students. From social interactions to physical activity, kids have a lot to gain in this upcoming school year and Safe Routes to School programs across the country are preparing to support student health, growth and development.
New resources from Safe Routes Partnership
Knowing that this school year is about safe walking, rolling, and so much more, Safe Routes Partnership developed a four part campaign, Safe Routes Back 2 School, to connect kids to learning, to health and to each other again.
With resources launched monthly from June through September, Safe Routes Partnership provides key messaging, real-time resources, and Zoom discussion sessions to prepare all of us for the return to school. We created new resources to cover Covid-specific topics. For example, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: COVID-19’s Impact on Youth Physical Activity and Safe Routes to School examines how the past year has changed the way in which people move through their communities and offers recommendations for supporting physical activity moving forward.
We also held virtual sessions by Zoom to allow Safe Routes to School practitioners to see real-life examples of how Safe Routes to School programs are engaging students and families during the pandemic. The sessions included informal breakout sessions to discuss challenges their programs are facing. With that feedback, Safe Routes Partnership is able to assist these programs by providing tools to address their areas of concern.
Many programs have seen that the strain of the pandemic continues to weigh on students, parents, and school districts, creating the challenge of Safe Routes to School programs not being prioritized in relation to Covid-19 concerns. Why Safe Routes to School is an Essential Part of Reopening: Talking Points for Safe Routes to School in 2021, is a new resource to help identify some of the challenges that have either surfaced because of or were exacerbated by the pandemic and offers talking points to outline how Safe Routes to School can provide the tools to address some of those concerns.
As we all work together to make a Socially-connected, Active, Future for Everyone, with SAFE routes supporting the social connections and physical activity our kids need to be ready to learn, we must make the effort to be gentle in our approach as we ease back into the school year. As students return to the classroom they will bring with them the trauma of the past year caused by social isolation, fear, and any instability they may have experienced in their lives. To better understand the ways that Safe Routes to School practitioners can take a trauma-informed approach to support the varied needs of children, their caregivers, and school partners as students return to school this fall, read Safe Routes Partnership’s blog, Trauma-Informed Approaches to Safe Routes to School Programming.
The final launch in the SAFE Routes Back 2 School campaign will be released on September 21. To explore the previously launched resources visit https://bit.ly/3gVZhgW.