Safe Routes to School partnership with America Walks at César Chávez School

The Community Cycling Center’s Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Coordinator at César Chávez School, William Francis, has had the opportunity to work alongside PE teacher and SRTS advocate Sam Balto through an America Walks Community Change grant for the the past two consecutive years (2018-2020). Through this grant the school has engaged in various projects including a parent-led closure of various school parking lot entrances/exits and establishment of a student “thrive zone” in that area, the creation of three walking school bus routes and financial compensation for parent volunteers who lead them, parking lot mural paintings based on student submitted designs, a bike lock and tool library, and daylighting of corners for improved visibility. Future plans include a student-led “no idle” campaign for car drivers, field trip and education around infrastructure and tactical urbanism for community members, and further development of the student “thrive zone”, including but not limited to an outdoor classroom space and ongoing beautification of the area. Our hope is that through these projects, the community can gather momentum and build a pedestrian-first mindset that places César Chávez School in a leadership position for other schools who wish to replicate some of the things we have been able to accomplish. Community organizing and self-determination are two key areas of focus, and will help ensure that our mutual efforts and funds are geared towards meeting genuine needs within the school community. If you have resources that could help this community continue onwards in their mission to incentivize walking and rolling to and from school, please contact William Francis at [email protected].

School Safety Patrol

César Chávez School is proud to say that they now have a robust safety patrol program to help keep students and families safe as they cross the streets surrounding the school. With collaboration and support from the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School (SRTS) team, César Chávez School now has two new marked crosswalks in front of the school, speed beacons along busy Willis Blvd., and clearer parking designations. In tandem with these improvements, SRTS Coordinator William Francis helped create a Safety Patrol Team of 4th and 5th grade students starting in 2018. The program has dramatically increased in popularity during the 2019-2020 school year, with roughly 25 participants spread out over five teams who rotate in service every three weeks. The team is supervised and supported on a daily basis by school staff member, Samantha Fisher. Other key staff supporting the Safety Patrol Team include Hazel O’Connor, Shamsa Mohamed, Raquel Dorshkind, and Sam Balto.

Our safety patrollers are critical in the larger vision of César Chávez School as a leader in SRTS programing and innovation. Alongside the improvements we have made through the school’s America Walks grant, it is ciritical that drivers are aware of the presence of student volunteers who are playing such an important role in ensuring the safety of fellow community members who walk and roll to and from school. These incredible student and staff volunteers bring life and meaning to the infrastructure improvements the school community has worked for over the past several years. They are leaders today, and represent the resourcefulness and resilience characteristic of César Chávez School.

In recognition of the considerable time investment the Safety Patrol Team has given, they are all invited to attend the end of the year PPS Safety Patrol Picnic at Oaks Amusement Park in May. Also, by the end of the school year, every student participant is able to earn a laptop computer through the school’s Free Geek program. If you would also like to recognize our Safety Patrol Team, please reach out to William Francis, [email protected].

Walk n’ Roll to School Days

Over the past two years, Safe Routes to School Coordinator William Francis has been organizing consistent Walk n’ Roll to School Day events at César Chávez School. Occuring during the morning commute on select days throughout the school year, students and families are encouraged to walk and roll in any capacity from their homes to school. There are many reasons for students and family members to participate in these events including getting much needed exercise which has been shown to improve student performance at school, as an opportunity to socialize outside of school with neighbors and classmates in a healthy setting, to build awareness and sympathy for the pedestrian experience, to prove that it is feasible and fun to not use a car to commute to school, and to receive positive recognition from school staff for the responsible choices being made. Every October the school participates in International Walk n’ Roll to School Day, and every May we run weekly events for Walk n’ Roll to School Month. The school is a dual-language, Spanish immersion magnate site in PPS, serving a 52% Latinx population. With this in mind, all communications are always shared in both languages, and the majority of outreach happens in the Spanish language.

Students and families are encouraged to join one of three active Walking School Bus routes on Walk n’ Roll to School Days. These routes approach the school from distinct directions, and have been planned to serve the greatest number of families in the area. These routes have planned “stops”, and are led by responsible adults from the community. Additionally, parent volunteers who lead walking school buses are financially compensated for their service through the school’s America Walks grant. Our goal as a community is to increase the frequency of our Walking School Bus service moving forwards. Because in many ways volunteering is a privilege, we feel very strongly about financially compensating our parent walk leaders, so we are continually looking to replenish our funds towards these ends. In addition to focusing on increasing the frequency of the service, we also continue to educate around and advocate for infrastructure improvements that can help alleviate some of the barriers families encounter in their commute to and from school. If you are interested in supporting our Walking School Bus program please contact William Francis at [email protected].

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