Loss of pro­gram harm­ful to chil­dren

Cape Breton Post - - EDITORIAL -

So the Nova Sco­tia gov­ern­ment’s Depart­ment of Health and Well­ness has cut 100 per cent of fund­ing to the Ecol­ogy Ac­tion Cen­tre’s school travel plan­ning pro­gram. That puts my wife out of a job that we both feel pas­sion­ate about.

Un­em­ploy­ment aside, I am con­cerned about the ef­fect of this loss on the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity. The school travel plan­ning pro­gram helped kids to safely walk, bike, skate, scoot and move them­selves around the neigh­bour­hood in such a way that teaches them to find fun and ex­er­cise in ev­ery­day ac­tiv­i­ties.

With­out it, kids are learn­ing to burn fos­sil fu­els rather than calo­ries to get from point A to point B. There are kids in my neigh­bour­hood who live a block from the school and get driven. This trend teaches a seden­tary lifestyle. As the years roll on this af­fects their health and be­comes in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to change.

The pro­gram that the gov­ern­ment is putting a stop to trou­bleshoots pol­icy, in­fra­struc­ture and fa­cil­i­tates op­por­tu­ni­ties for kids to use their bod­ies and stay healthy.

It also teaches the im­por­tance and use of safety pro­to­cols and equip­ment. One such pro­gram is the walk­ing school bus. I walk with my daugh­ter to and from school of­ten. She loves it. Now she wants to walk to school on her own. I am ap­pre­hen­sive. Af­ter pre­vi­ous fund­ing cuts shut down two-thirds of the schools in our neigh­bour­hood, the walk to school is far­ther than ever. Fur­ther fund­ing cuts re­moved all but one cross­ing guard.

The walk­ing school bus pro­gram is a great way to deal with the longer walk and fewer cross­ing guards. This is how it works: adult chap­er­ones and kids meet at a des­ig­nated spot. The group heads for school, pick­ing up more kids as they go. The kids have fun, get ex­er­cise and ar­rive on time un­der adult su­per­vi­sion.

The last of­fi­cial walk­ing school bus re­cently hap­pened and what oc­curred il­lus­trates some of the rea­sons why the pro­gram is use­ful. The group en­coun­tered a de­tour from the usual route due to side­walk and road con­struc­tion. The group took the next al­ter­nate route avoid­ing streets with no side­walks.

One child was trav­el­ling by wheel­chair. In var­i­ous places, in­clud­ing a busy in­ter­sec­tion now with no cross­ing guard and dan- ger­ous due to vis­i­bil­ity, he found that the curbs had no ramps. The im­pas­si­bil­ity of the side­walk ne­ces­si­tated that he use the road. Be­cause he was with the walk­ing school bus these is­sues were man­age­able.

The next step for the school travel plan­ning com­mit­tee would be to work with mu­nic­i­pal part­ners to make that route wheel­chair ac­ces­si­ble and ad­dress vis­i­bil­ity at that cor­ner. That prob­a­bly won’t hap­pen now.

It would be great if the pro­gram wasn’t needed, if par­ents were able to walk with their kids and if the schools and city of­fi­cials would deal with the safety and ac­ces­si­bil­ity of school routes.

The school travel plan­ning ini­tia­tive has been work­ing with 24 schools across the province, eight of which are Cape Bre­ton schools. It would be great if peo­ple would or­ga­nize walk­ing school buses and pro­vide re­ports on what needs to be changed to those who can make it hap­pen. Or if peo­ple or­ga­nized events to teach kids how to bike and skate­board safely. But there isn’t much of that with­out the school travel plan­ning pro­gram. That’s why the pro­gram ex­ists. Ex­cuse me — used to ex­ist. Chris John­stone-Lau­rette

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