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Return to school: from road safety to at-home learning

As summer winds down, many students will be heading back to the classroom. But this year, back to school comes with an added level of stress for parents, with many anxious and uncertain about the return to in-class learning. That's why we've pulled together information on road safety for those returning to school, plus some helpful ideas to support parents and children with at-home learning.

Getting to school safely

While road safety may not be top of mind, BCAA strongly encourages parents to be extra careful as they get behind the wheel and head into the school zone.

Why the concern?

BCAA research over the years has shown a wide range of unsafe driving behaviours witnessed during the first few weeks back to school. Last year, 80 percent of British Columbian parents said speeding in school zones was an issue, while 73 percent reported drivers not stopping at crosswalks, and 56 percent saw at least one near miss involving a child almost being hit by a car. And rushing during drop off and pick up times continues to be the biggest issue overall.

Now, as parents converge on school zones, add the dimension of COVID-related drop-off procedures and it's a prescription for bad driving behaviours. Even with the best of intentions, it's easy to make mistakes. Help keep everybody safe by taking a few extra moments to stay mindful while behind the wheel, and follow these tips to make school zones safer for everyone.

  1. Build in time to prevent rushing. We understand the pressure parents can feel when it comes to dropping off and picking up their children.
  2. Focus on what you can control. No matter what's going on around you, be patient and courteous. Reacting with extreme frustration may aggravate the situation and increase the risk of unsafe behaviours.
  3. Expect the unexpected. Look out for safety risks such as kids darting from cars, along with kids who are cycling and other pedestrians. With staggered bell times this year, expect a longer 'peak' time for drop off and pick up.
  4. Follow school zone rules. Respect your school's drop off and pick up procedures, along with traffic rules such as driving within the speed limit, stopping at marked crosswalks and not driving distracted.
  5. Avoid common mistakes. Don't double park or stop on crosswalks, which can block pedestrians' visibility, and always avoid stopping on the opposite side of the street or in moving traffic, which would require children to rush out or cross through traffic.
  6. Leave the car. Consider walking or cycling with your child. Or park and walk the last block or two. This may be a practical option for parents working from home.

What's BCAA doing to help?

BCAA supports safety in school zones through the School Safety Patrol program, which will continue to operate this fall in some elementary schools under COVID-19 guidelines established with guidance from the BC Center for Disease Control, Public Health Agency of BC and WorkSafeBC.

BCAA has also partnered with HUB Cycling to help educate British Columbians on the benefits of biking to school, as both a means to reduce traffic in school zones and to improve kids' overall health and wellbeing.

young girl cycling on trail

Reduce traffic congestion by cycling to school

The popularity of cycling has skyrocketed this year, and as a healthy and safe option for travel, it's sure to be an attractive commuting option for back to school. As parents help their kids gear up and hit the road, it's important to remember that bikes are considered vehicles too. Here are a few tips to help teach your children proper bike safety:

  • Make sure their bike is road ready. Is the height set correctly, tires inflated, and are the brakes working properly? See additional tips for getting back on your bike from HUB Cycling.
  • Check for correct helmet fit using the 2V1 approach for kids: the front should sit two fingers above the eyebrows; straps form a "V" under ears and there's a one-finger space between strap and chin.
  • Always wear bright colours and reflective gear no matter the time of day.
  • Teach children how to ride in a straight line, and use marked crosswalks and controlled crossings as well as hand signals for turning left, right and stopping. A quick quiz before heading out is a great way to ensure they understand the rules!
  • Show them the right route and go on a test ride to ensure they know the way.
  • Remind children to always dismount their bikes when crossing the street.
  • Consider becoming a champion for active travel for your child's school by signing up for HUB Cycling's Bike to School Week, running September 28 – October 2 this year. Schools in communities outside of Metro Vancouver can visit Go by Bike BC to register.
girl doing homework

Set up your home environment for school success

Wherever the classroom is this fall, being prepared with at-home educational activities, and creating a routine for your kids, can help ease the stress of back to school. This past spring, using the Keep Learning BC website and our Member benefits as inspiration, we pulled together some helpful ideas to support parents and children with at-home learning. Some of the top advice:

  • Set up a dedicated study space. Alleviate clutter around your home and ensure homework and school supplies don't get misplaced by creating a workspace. This will also help define boundaries between school and playtime. Members can save on study space upgrades and earn CAA Dollars by shopping at one of BCAA’s Rewards Partners like Staples or Indigo.
  • Add fitness to your day. According to the Ministry of Education, staying physically active helps to maintain a healthy immune system and build a strong defence against COVID-19. Try scheduling in physical movement during the day as it would exist in a school environment, like at recess and after lunch.
  • Get kids involved with chores. This is an opportunity for your child to develop some independence and to contribute around the house. Chores may also feel like a breath of fresh air to students because it's something different to do. It's also a great way to have kids earn their screen time.
  • Take advantage of creative learning resources. Check out one of BCAA's Rewards Partner Science World's dome-at-home activities, including their downloadable Big Science for Little Hands at Home.
  • Make healthy eating fun. Find creative ways to get your kids involved with food prep. If your kitchen essentials could use a refresh, Members save 5% on kitchenware and tools at Stokes.
  • If parents or children are feeling anxious or overwhelmed, take a break!

Whatever back to school may look like for your family this year it's important to be kind to yourself and remember, you've got this!