Nicole Dupuis, Director of Health Promotion
March 18, 2021
Ontario Active School Travel Fund Awarded to Windsor-Essex County
Active school transportation (AST) plays an important role in helping to increase students’ activity levels and associated improvements in mental and physical health. Common modes of active school transportation include walking, cycling, skateboarding, or scootering to and from school. Using active transportation for school travel can add two bouts of physical activity to a student’s day, helping them accumulate the recommended 60 minutes of activity daily from the Canadian 24 hour movement guidelines. Additionally, when more families use active transportation, there are fewer vehicles accessing the school zone leading to improvements in safety and air quality in the school community.
In October 2020, Green Communities Canada (GCC) a leading organization promoting active school travel, invited communities in Ontario to apply for their third round of grants under the Ontario Active School Travel Fund (OAST). The OAST fund was created in 2018 to support active travel initiatives in selected communities across the province and has previously supported the following regions with grants under the previous two funding cycles:
Funded prrojects are expected to have a significant and lasting impact in their communities by establishing a foundation for continuing growth in the area of active school travel. Between 2018-2020, Green Communities Canada awarded $2.1 million from the OAST Fund, supporting a number of projects across the province. Previous applications for In Windsor and Essex County, led by community groups and organizations have been unsuccessful in securing funding in previous rounds. In response to the call for applications for the third round of funding, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) worked with key community partners to develop and submit an application for the OAST Fund in November 2020. As the lead applicant and coordinating organization, the WECHU submitted the grant on behalf of the partnership which involved the following organizations and community groups:
- The Greater Essex County School Board
- Windsor Essex Student Transportation Services
- The City of Windsor
- Windsor Police Services
- Bike Windsor Essex
- County of Essex – County Wide Active Transportation System (CWATS) program
In December 2020, the WECHU was notified by the OAST fund that the application was successful and would be receiving funding in the amount of $60,000 to be used toward active transportation initiatives for schools throughout Windsor-Essex County during 2021 into early 2022.
The WECHU is in the initial stages of planning and establishing a Transfer Payment Agreement with Green Communities Canada. Upon finalizing the transfer of funding partners will reconvene to discuss project timelines, assign roles and select pilot sites. The committee’s work will focus on policy development and collaboration with pilot schools to implement interventions and assess their impact, with the ultimate goal of establishing sustainable policy and facilitating a more supportive environent for active school travel across the region. Specific projects associated with the grant application for which the funding will be utilized are described below:
- Hiring and training of a Active Travel Planner to assist schools and boards in implementing plans and coordinate community education and outreach.
- Establishing pilot school sites and create working groups to engage school community in planning of school-focused interventions.
- Conducting walkability and safe route checks at each pilot school led by Windsor Police Services.
- Conducting a scan of built environment and other policy initiatives related to each school community and determine existing resources.
- Implementing safe active school travel training sessions with students through CAN Bike Safety and Education sessions led by Bike Windsor Essex.
- Hosting AT community education events to highlight safe routes surrounding each pilot school and creative initiatives to engage students in active school travel.
Conducting baseline and post-intervention evaluation to determine intervention effectiveness in pilot schools and opportunities to scale up for board-wide implementation.