Back to unusual school

Blackboard fright for young student with unusual back to school rules

We are facing a back to unusual school. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is the human species can adapt. That is good since children, teachers and parents are not the only ones who need to Be Alert this year.

Everyone in the community needs to adapt to this new normal. School this September will be different. Safety is key. For that reason, we respect some parents will decide to keep their children learning remotely from home for now.

Whatever you decide, we know you can do it. We have seen you social distance, wear a face covering and, well, basically change your entire life for the past few months. Our kids have also adapted to new routines, perhaps better than us. But we also know that may have slowed their academic achievements and social skills development.

What is coming next is going to be tough. There will be tests. Parents will juggle. Teachers will be planning and grading. Students will be studying. We know tests are essential to learning. The only thing which seems certain is that there will be new kinds of tests in this back to unusual school. Not just for students, for all of us.

School Traffic Safety Signals

A colour coded #RestartMB Pandemic Response System introduced by the Province of ManitobaManitoba just introduced this colour-coded #RestartMB Pandemic Response System.

Operating much like traffic lights: green, yellow, orange and red. Colouring signals when we need to stop, go, move with degrees of caution. Because they are familiar and simple to understand any changes that may happen, we think this is a useful tool.

Using this system allows each community to know what the pandemic traffic is like, helping us all navigate intersections as more people circulate in our communities.

Unusual School Lessons

Learning the new rules is the first lesson if they are heading back to unusual school, even before you or your child sets foot in one. Depending on the situation in your province and community. Spacing out desks is key in the classroom. Hand hygiene is something we learned to do really well this spring, but young children might need a refresher hand washing course after being away from school since March.

Unusual too is that face coverings are required inside, including most schools and for most grades. Hallways literally have traffic signs. Learning virtually will continue for some subjects, alternating with other students getting lessons in class. Weather permitting, there may be more ‘outdoor ed’ if teachers can take the learning outside.

From K-12 it will be very unusual school. Attendance taking is key for contact tracing. Absentees will be praised because it is safest to stay home if they are sick. Teachers, staff and parents will be on high alert, since things can change quickly, and this year children might have some extra angst.

We all know much learning happens outside the classroom. But this will be limited. Most likely absent for now are gym, band and after school clubs and teams. Restrictions on recess, lockers and lunchtime or after school hanging out will make this very unsocial unusual school indeed.

Unusual School Tests

young students, teachers, parents and the community will be tested for safety as kids get back to school Going hand in hand with school is tests. This unusual school year will involve a whole new set of tests, not only for students, but also for teachers, staff and parents. Testing to ensure classroom setup is safe. Testing to provide assurance that those circulating in the halls are healthy.

Testing normally measures a student’s understanding of the curriculum. Testing this year is the way to know if returning to unusual school will not spread the coronavirus to others in the school or the broader community.

We all hope schools pass these critical tests with flying colours. And, if test results indicate there is a problem, the real test will be how quickly and effectively we deal with it. The whole community depends on this.

Unusual School Traffic Alert

As if this unusual school year isn’t trying enough. We continue to urge drivers to Be Alert, especially around school zones. Road safety is still important too. Those speed enforcement cameras we warned you about are now issuing tickets. Moving vehicles and small kids do not mix well.

Reopening schools means there will be even more kids traveling on foot, by bike or scooter on our streets every day. Routines may switch every other day or week. Allowing for safe distancing, means there will be even more school buses back on the road doing their daily double routes.

Commuting by car may be the choice more often than transit for schoolteachers and staff getting to work. School re-opening will allow some parents of school age kids to begin to actually get work done if their still working from home. And, if they work outside their home, many parents will also opt to walk, drive or bike to work.

Driving kids to school may happen even more than before out of parents’ concerns for safety. All of these new and unusual back-to-school and work routines may actually add to traffic congestion around school zones.

Be Alert safety products for an usual school year

Traveling safely back to unusual school still requires all road users to Be Alert. Maybe more than ever, we encourage parents to help young children know the safest routes to school. Teach them how to cross busy streets with the help of zebra crossings or crossing guards. If you do any back-to-school shopping, make your children more visible to motorists with reflective patches, zipper pulls or trims to attach to their clothing, bikes and scooters.

We partner with all types of companies and organizations to communicate about their brand. If you are a school administrator, teacher, parent volunteer, we can help customize your message, get in touch. Communicating new health and safety measures is key to making schools not only re-open, but continue your vital education mission.


Take a Summer Road Trip

Take a summer road trip

Summer road trips are an annual ritual for many families. This year, a short drive from home is the extent of a vacation many of us will have. Limits and travel advisories restrict foreign trips. Continued social distancing guidelines remain in place, even as Canadian communities reopen.

Consider a local summer road trip an opportunity. It is a great way to get outside, change your scenery. Discover a little history, or see and taste something new in the area you live.

Before you go

Coming along for the ride should be common sense actions for road safety. Ensure your vehicle is road trip ready, since it may have been parked more than normal lately. Fuel up.

Maybe get your mechanic to change the oil, air filter and check tire pressure. Just like winter tires, they are key to road safety. Top up the washer fluid. Refresh the first aid kit in the trunk. Drive in style, take your vehicle through a wash, and give the inside surfaces a sanitizing wipe.

Make a plan

Plan your summer road trip a little before you pile everyone into the car. Have a democratic vote on a destination. Throw rings on the paper map in your glove compartment. Draw straws to pick who’s doing the driving and the family member who gets to choose your summer road trip.

Be guided by theme or destination for your adventure. Forget the GPS and let serendipity navigate for a change. The wrong turn can lead to great times, if you avoid the argument. If you make it a road trip series, then everyone in your bubble can lead at least one.

Still stuck? Here are a few summer road trip ideas:

Make it natural

natural wonders to find on a summer road trip

Pick a Provincial park you have not been to before. Walk a trail. There are several at the pastoral Scottsdale Farm, an Ontario Heritage Trust property about an hour’s drive from Toronto. Get everyone to photograph their favourite local flora and fauna.

A walk works up an appetite. Maybe bring a change of shoes or clothes in case you get muddy or wet. Book a table for an alfresco lunch at an outdoor patio before you head home.

Make it tasty

Pick a picnic destination. Pack a basket or cooler with something to eat and drink. Or map out a route past farm-gate produce stands and a local take-out sandwich shop to pick up freshly made provisions. Bring a blanket, wrap individual cutlery and plates in napkins. Have hand wipes or sanitizers. Bring a frizbee, soccer ball or book. Or, just look up at the clouds and while away the afternoon daydreaming you are far away…

Make it historic

Canada is still a young country, but there are plenty of historic plaques, places and routes to discover. Look them up. For example, in Upper Canada, the Underground Railroad has several terminus sites such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Dresden (check first if they are open before you drive there).

Since school has been abnormal for quite some time, you could turn your road trip into a history, geography or literary lesson if the kids permit, and you are not tired of being the teacher.

Debate monuments and movements. Link them to events of today. Add new vocabulary like ‘abolitionist’.

Make it a sweet compromise

If you would rather avoid sticky issues, try sticky sweets instead.

Across the country, there are no less than 15 festivals, trails, and tours that celebrate the not-so-humble butter tart. The surprisingly controversial story of the butter tart, by Emma Waverman, Cottage Life, July 6, 2020.

There is controversy even with desserts. In Ontario, the Wellington County Butter Tart Trail first launched in 2008 in the Kitchener-Waterloo Region. Further east, a copycat Butter Tart Tour through Northumberland, Peterborough and the Kawarthas now has more than 50 self-guided sweet stops to choose from.

At first, these rival treat trails exchanged nasty letters over the ‘invention’ of local tart road trips. But in true Canadian fashion, they compromised (apparently over butter tarts!). Good lesson whether you have a sweet tooth or not, prefer your tarts plain, or with raisins, currants or pecans:

Differences can be resolved through cordial discussion.

Apparently, butter tarts are a Canadian culinary invention dating back at least two centuries when pantry supplies were quite limited. Nationally there are many variations. Sugar pie (tarte au sucre) is a close cousin in Quebec, if you want to take a road trip in la belle province. Evolving as Canadians’ tastes change, butter tarts commonly found now have new ingredients like spices, maple syrup and bacon. Debate that!

Whatever direction of your summer road trip, look up the weather forecast for the day you plan to take it. Plot your route, have your designated field guide navigate. Follow the road signs, don’t speed, and look out for cyclists and pedestrians sharing the road.

Our own Be Alert program of reflective child-friendly designs are made to be highly visible in low light conditions. They are easy to attach to clothing, bike helmets or backpacks. We can customize a wide range of safety products with insignia, badges, zippers and other identity and apparel products with your own important message. In the meantime, take a summer road trip to discover some pretty amazing things just a little ways from home. We are here, contact us for help with your safety communications.


A novel approach to alfresco dining

Welcome back to alfresco dining

In a novel alfresco dining solution, cities began allowing restaurant patio space to sprawl. For the first time in maybe ever, restaurants have the green light expand to some streets and public spaces. Parking and traffic lanes are giving way to socially distanced seating. Normally, mixing patios, pedestrians and vehicles is not a good idea for road safety reasons. But this role reversal is a creative adaptation to our pandemic times.

Canada is a bit behind Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. That is where the mayor was among the first in Europe to authorize use of public squares to become larger cafe spaces. So long as they were following operating guidance. In the old town, the StrangeLove cafe patio is highly recommended by the Barista Institute. But it will likely be a while before we travel there.

Meanwhile, everyone continues to cook and make coffee at home a whole lot more than normal. Thank goodness the idea of setting up additional alfresco space made it over here in May.

Spaced Out

Victoria, BC plan Build Back Victoria

Space, it seems, is the new luxury. Canada has a lot of it, but it has not been very accessible for those looking to escape their home haven for more than a drive-thru or curbside take-out meal.

Victoria BC mayor, Lisa Helps convinced city council to approve the “Build Back Victoria” plan allowing alfresco dining on sidewalks and streets, and some public spaces. Maintaining an unobstructed pedestrian right-of-way with 3m clear space is a must. Access to utilities, buildings, crosswalks, bus stops are also requirements for operating a temporary patio space.

Continuous physical barriers between the patio and travel lane keeps everyone safe.

Ahead of many provinces flattening curve, British Columbia began allowing restaurants to start opening in May with new space and hygiene rules. Moving quickly, many more municipalities across Canada have changed zoning and bylaws to relax alfresco dining rules. Expediting patio licensing permits and showing flexibility allows restaurants to space out safely using curb lanes, sidewalks and laneways.

Adding the use of public spaces and plazas for ‘commons-style’ alfresco eating is another welcome way to space out.

Alfresco cafe culture change

Alfresco cappucino allowed on larger patiosEnjoying a good coffee or meal while socializing is one of those things many miss the most (including us!).

We respect cafe and restaurant owners showing a tremendous capacity to pivot from dine-in to delivery and pickup business. Wearing personal protective equipment is the new normal for front of house and kitchen staff. Pickup windows and no-contact payment reduces exposure, and keeps the cash register ringing a little. Delivery services, or apps like SkipTheDishes and UberEats give restaurants a way to get meals to you.

But we know this is not enough for many restaurant owners.

Support your local restaurant safely

Suffering significant business interruption, a Restaurants Canada survey released in April said seven out of 10 food-service businesses are worried. If things don’t improve in the next few months, some may not survive.

Even through business hardship, we are impressed by how many have also been donating prepared food to front-line essential workers. Dine-in restaurants usually rely on short patio season to increase capacity during summer months. Adding new alfresco space while continuing safety precautions for workers and customers will help more dining establishments re-start and recover.

Efforts to support hard hit small restaurant and retail businesses will be needed in the Golden Horseshoe and some other regions in Ontario. Catching up with the west, Premier Doug Ford announced restaurants could re-open for dine-in in areas less affected by the pandemic on June 12.

Dine, drink and shop local, said Toronto Mayor, John Tory, when proposing a CafeTO program to allow for temporary patio expansions. The council vote on his plan will take place on June 22.

Stick with six: a modified alfresco dining experience

Canadians always thirst for our notoriously short outdoor patio season. This summer it seems we have to try alfresco dining in a modified way. It is tempting to relax the personal safety rules in place for months, but we encourage you to “stick with six”. Six feet (or 2 metres) of social distancing, and maximum of six at a table.

Municipalities recognize restaurants need more space to handle less business. Rules for restaurants to open alfresco dining service are extensive. Finding way to make this happen safely while road traffic volumes remain lower than usual deserves a good tip.

Not everyone is ready to operate under those rules. Neither is everyone is ready go out just yet. When you are ready to venture out of your kitchen, book an alfresco table at a local restaurant open in your neighbourhood. We urge you to ‘stick to six’. Savour the luxury of space. Enjoy the pleasure of a really good cup of coffee, or someone else doing the cooking while you dine alfresco again. Cheers to that.

Road safety still matters

Summertime brings out the kids, bikes, scooters and soccer balls, and soon, day camps too. Sometimes they veer onto streets. Our own Be Alert program of reflective child-friendly designs are made to be highly visible in low light conditions. They are easy to attach to clothing, bike helmets or backpacks. We can customize a wide range of safety products with insignia, badges, zippers and other identity and apparel products with your own important message. In the meantime, enjoy the extra alfresco space. Contact us for help with your safety communications.