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Important Dates to Remember

  • Christmas Break - December 24, 2018 - January 4, 2019 - All Schools Closed
  • Monday, January 7, 2019 - First Day Back after Break
  • Thursday, January 24, 2019 - Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - Exams for ALL HIGH SCHOOLS
  • Friday, January 25, 2019 - PA Day for ALL ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS
  • Thursday, January 31, 2019 - PA Day for ALL HIGH SCHOOLS
  • Friday, February 1, 2019 - PA Day for ALL HIGH SCHOOLS
  • Monday, February 18, 2019 - Family Day Holiday - All Schools Closed

On the Bus - 2018/2019 Winter Edition

Information on how we determine when to cancel transportation and how to be prepared for school bus transportation during the winter months can be found here.

Walk or Wheel Thunder Bay kicks off local Active School Travel project with $86,000 grant

The grant from the Ontario Active School Travel Fund is made possible through a financial contribution from the Government of Ontario, administered through Green Communities Canada.

Background

Walk or Wheel TBay (WOW TBay) is part of the province-wide Ontario Active School Travel project funded by the Ministry of Education. WOW TBay has received $86,000 to deliver active school travel initiatives to elementary-aged students in May 2018-June 2020. The purpose of WOW TBay is to encourage families to choose active transportation for the trip to and from school. Active transportation refers to any form of human-powered (non-motorized) travel such as walking, cycling, using a wheelchair, scooter, or skateboard. Students who are bused can also be encouraged to use active transportation to get to the bus stop. Active transportation increases physical activity, improves physical, mental and emotional health while also benefiting our environment.

What is WOW TBay?

WOW TBay is a committee co-chaired by staff at EcoSuperior Environmental Programs and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit. The committee also includes staff from Lakehead Public Schools, Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board, Student Transportation Services of Thunder Bay, the City of Thunder Bay, and Thunder Bay Police. The role of WOW TBay is to connect partners and to work closely with schools to develop and implement active school travel plans. WOW TBay also helps schools access resources that will support their active transportation initiatives.

The Issues

  • Childhood obesity rates are increasing.
  • The number of students walking to school has been steadily decreasing over the past 25 years.
  • Automobile dependency is contributing to increasing greenhouse gas emissions and negatively impacting the environment across Ontario.
  • Heavy traffic around school zones contributes to air quality issues and the increase of asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

An Opportunity

In working together, school administrators, teachers, parents, other school board staff, public health departments and municipalities can implement an Active School Travel Program focused on promoting active transportation. Schools will be able to leverage resources of all partners (Health Unit, City, Police, school board offices, Student Transportation Services, EcoSuperior), as well as staff resources from Facilitators, to create an effective program.

The Benefits

It’s Healthy!

It's Clean!

  • Active School Travel is environmentally friendly and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Schools can earn points towards the Ontario EcoSchools certification

It's Safe!

  • Community safety is improved by adding “eyes on the street”
  • Active school travel reduces vehicular traffic and congestion around schools

It's Educational!

  • Students learn about the built and natural environment through exploration

It's Fun and Easy!

  • Students enjoy social time with friends and the fresh air

The WOW TBay program will work with four Thunder Bay elementary schools to develop and implement active school travel plans. Ecole Gron Morgan and St. Thomas School have been chosen through an application and committee selection process to be the first two schools to benefit from this program. Two additional schools will be selected in 2019 through another application and committee selection process.

At the four selected schools, guardians, students, teachers and administrators will work collaboratively with the WOW TBay committee to develop an effective active school travel plan that meets the needs of each school community. The School Travel Planning Facilitators at EcoSuperior Environmental Programs and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit will be the main points of contact for the school community. Facilitators will create and implement school-specific travel plans based on the school community’s input and will provide the school with resources to increase travel plan effectiveness.

Selected schools will receive in-kind support to deliver initiatives, including an honourarium and materials such as safety vests, bike racks, wayfinding signage, signage on school grounds, and trophies for the classes with the highest participation. Schools will also receive supporting materials for four annual events and a professionally-developed report of program findings.

Selected schools will work with Facilitators to help encourage students to walk or wheel to school by:

  • Providing input to Facilitators for the development of school travel plan and assisting in implementing the plan
  • Creating a school committee consisting of administrators, teachers and other school staff, guardians, or others from the school community who will meet regularly to guide the development, implementation, and updating of school travel plan
  • Participating in Walkabout of school area
  • Participating in four events: Walk to School Month (October), Winter Walk Day (February), Spring into Spring (April), and Bike Week (May).
  • Tracking participation through school-wide hands-up classroom surveys, conducted daily for a week twice annually.
  • Tracking parent involvement by distributing parent surveys
  • Hosting annual school assembly and/or media launch
  • Helping design best routes to school wayfinding signage incorporating student art
  • Distributing infographics and other materials

Schools are selected based on the following criteria:

  • Demonstrated support from champions and school community
  • Clear commitment from school community
  • Demonstrated need OR ability to build on existing initiatives
  • Quality of application and thoroughness of responses
  • Long-term sustainability of project beyond June 2020 and contribution to environmental sustainability

National School Bus Safety Week

The week of October 22-26, 2018 is National School Bus Safety Week!

Schools and communities around the country will be recognizing the 2018 School Bus Safety Week celebrating the theme: “My Driver - My Safety Hero!” with Wednesday, October 24th being celebrated as School Bus Driver Appreciation Day.

Every school day nearly 13,000 students in Thunder Bay and surrounding townships start and end their day on a yellow school bus. The men and women who drive these buses in all weather, road and traffic conditions play an essential role in safely transporting our students. Most start their day well before dawn, inspecting their bus to ensure all mechanical and safety systems are operational. The MTO requires over 100 items to be checked daily to ensure the bus is fit to safely transport children. Then it is off to pick up the students and take them to school and then back again at the end of the day.

It is not, however, all about driving a 40-foot long, 12-ton vehicle and opening and shutting a door. School Bus drivers love children and understand their responsibility for getting them to and from school safely. It takes a lot of patience, understanding and caring to do this job.

Driving in rain, snow, icy, cold and hot conditions, maneuvering through traffic and at times encountering irate drivers, trying to keep up to 72 children safe in a confined space while staying on schedule, school bus drivers are called Professional drivers for a reason. It is not only because of the specialized training and licensing, but also how they conduct themselves in difficult situations. They understand that children are learning what is right and what is wrong and that they make mistakes. Bus drivers must be good listeners, show compassion and be someone the students can look up to. They are quite often the first and last adult many children see outside of their own homes each school day.

School bus drivers love their jobs and their responsibilities, yet despite all their patience and understanding, what truly angers any school bus driver is when a motorist runs through their stop arm. This puts the children they are responsible for protecting in danger.

According to The Official Ministry of Transportation (MTO) Driver's Handbook, “It is illegal to fail to stop for a stopped school bus that has its red lights flashing. If you don't stop, you can be fined $400 to $2,000 and get six demerit points for a first offence. If you are convicted a second time within five years, the penalty is a fine of $1,000 to $4,000 and six demerit points. You could also go to jail for up to six months. In Ontario, school-bus drivers and other witnesses can report vehicles that have illegally passed a school bus. If you are the vehicle's registered owner, these same fines, but not demerit points or jail time, may be applied to you.”

National School Bus Safety Week is a way for everyone - parents, students, teachers, motorists, school bus operators, school administrators, and other interested parties - to join forces and address the importance of school bus safety.

Seat Belts on School Buses

October 15, 2018

The Fifth Estate recently ran a segment entitled “Unbuckled: School Bus Safety" (https://www.cbc.ca/fifth/episodes/2018-2019/unbuckled-school-bus-safety). The segment highlights a previously unreleased report dated 2010 from a researcher at Transport Canada which concluded that seat belts would be beneficial if a school bus was involved in a side-impact or roll-over collision. This is in contrast to the previously held Transport Canada position still present on its website that “Transport Canada has no evidence that three-point seat belts would improve the overall level of safety on a school bus.” (https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/motorvehiclesafety/tp-tp2436-rs200407-menu-130.htm)

Transport Canada is the regulatory body at the federal level and is responsible for setting standards to direct the school bus industry and the broader transportation sector at large. When collisions involving school buses do occur, very few critical injuries or fatalities have occurred in the industry across Canada (24 in the last 34 years). Transport Canada is responsible for establishing the standards to which vehicles must be built, and provincially, the Ministry of Transportation is responsible for carrier inspections and compliance to keep the roadways safe.

The school bus industry has relied on the built infrastructure of the bus (compartmentalization) as a key safety factor. The seat height, distance and padding protect occupants during a collision by absorption of force. However, compartmentalization has now come under scrutiny as it is may not be as effective during side-impacts or rollovers as acknowledged by the Transport Canada researcher in the on-air segment.

The media attention arising from the Fifth Estate segment represents an opportunity to participate in a broader conversation on the importance of school bus safety with regulatory stakeholders at Transport Canada and the Ministry of Transportation. The discussion is timely in light of the newly-passed federal regulation requiring all medium and large highway coaches to be equipped with seat belts as of 2020. School boards and consortia will continue to actively participate in important conversations that support student well-being and safety.

In the Province of Ontario, 40% of students are transported by school purpose vehicles each day. 830,000 students travel more than 1.8 million kilometres per day on 19,000 school purpose vehicles between their homes and schools or more than 310 million passenger trips per year travelling over 673 million kilometers.

School buses remain one of the safest forms of travel. School bus drivers have special licencing requirements, including defensive driving techniques, with scheduled mandatory refresher training. Driver training combined with pre and post trip inspection protocols and MTO regulated vehicle inspection schedules also contribute to the high safety rating of the school bus industry. Statistics on motor vehicle collisions of all types can be found in the Ministry of Transportation’s Annual Road Safety Report (http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/publications/ontario-road-safety-annual-report.shtml).

School Bus Safety Week is next week (October 22-26, 2018). With the additional attention on vital importance of school bus safety, this is also an opportunity to ask parents and guardians to remind their students of key safety messages when they are on board – be seated and remain seated for the entire ride, take the backpack off and hold it or stow it under the seat and on board behaviour play vital roles in ensuing everyone has a safe ride.

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Student Transportation Services of Thunder Bay is a student busing consortium by these 3 school boards:

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Suite 2001, 715 Hewitson St. Thunder Bay, ON. P7B 6B5 • Phone: (807) 625-1660 • Fax: (807) 622-5818