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Last week, Safe Kids Georgia’s summer interns attended the Georgia Commute Schools End of the Year Wrap Up meeting. At the meeting, representatives from across the state discussed their goals for increasing community support and awareness of student commutes to school. The mission of Georgia Commute Schools is to help find a better way for children to get to school or work — whether by carpooling, riding the bus, walking or biking, and to reduce idling among parents. The end goal of Georgia Commute Schools is to help reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality in school areas.

Summer 2018 Safe Kids Georgia Summer Interns (from left to right): Anna Wright, Sydney Csukas and Nadim Shake

During the meeting, there were three key speakers: Chris Coughlin, Brian Keefer, and Andre Riley. Chris Coughlin is a city councilman of Johns Creek who conducted pilot studies on two elementary schools to reduce traffic near the school. The school introduced Walking Wednesdays and saw an 8-fold increase in walking and biking participation. Chris emphasized that if you build the infrastructure, such as sidewalks, people will utilize them.

Brian Keefer is the current principal of Hampton Charter Elementary School and his school focuses on project-based learning. The school created an anti-idling event where students were educated on air quality and learned the different colors associated with each air quality level. The school would raise a flag each morning representing the air quality for that day to help inform students and parents. Brian found it successful when students got involved by walking around the drop off parking lot with signs stating ways to improve air quality such as not idling.

Andre Riley is the Director of Strategic Communications and Marketing for DeKalb County School District and he talked about National School Bus Safety Week. He focused more on school bus safety protocol such as remaining seated at all times, and refraining from horseplay, throwing objects, etc. Andre found that talking directly to the parents in the pickup line was most effective in gaining their support towards traffic reduction initiatives.

The meeting was concluded by separating into two groups to discuss potential solutions and successful strategies to engage parents in reducing traffic around schools. We discussed the different avenues of tackling this initiative ranging from marketing and branding, to social and emotional development with urban families. It was evident that Georgia Commute Schools is taking strides towards providing students with a cleaner and safer environment. This event was a great opportunity for representatives to congregate and brainstorm ideas to improve the programs in place.

Learn more about Georgia Commute Schools’ mission by visiting their website here.


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