SUDBURY-MANITOULIN—Students attending school in the Greater Sudbury area and Manitoulin Island are safer thanks to the hard work and dedication of Francine Blais and the Sudbury Student Services Consortium (SSSC).
Francine Blais and the Consortium were honoured by CAA South Central Ontario (CAA SCO) November 30 with a provincial achievement award, acknowledging this community partner’s hard work and dedication shown over the last seven years leading the CAA School Safety Patrol (SSP) program in the region.
“Francine’s (Blais’) work with the Greater Sudbury CAA School Safety Patrol program is making a real difference. She has shown incredible initiative and dedication to the quality and sustainability of the program, helping to ensure that kids have the knowledge and skills to stay safe as they travel to and from school,” said Albert Pasceri, community relations specialist, CAA South Central Ontario.
Renee Boucher, executive director of the SSSC told The Recorder, “this program is a success because of our bus operators and drivers, the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) and the school students who volunteer to be trained to become bus patrollers.” The latter, “are not there to discipline other students, the patrollers are trained to help evacuate a bus, and make sure all the students are safe getting off and on the bus. They are like a second set of eyes.”
Marie Ford, community liaison officer with the Manitoulin-Espanola detachment of the OPP, told the Recorder, “this is an amazing program.” She is involved in training bus controllers with Ms. Blais and she carries out a bus evacuation program at each of the local schools in the fall.
“The program generally involves Grade 6 students,” said Constable Ford. “It is a super program and it helps the bus drivers out. And Francine (Blais) is phenomenal, she is the one who makes sure everyone is on line and everything is a go. I am there to support the program and help with training the local bus patrollers.”
Ms. Blais introduced the SSP program to the Greater Sudbury area in 2011 and has consistently expanded its impact and reach, while maintaining sustainability and quality. She and her team have trained numerous students on school safety and leadership across the region. This year alone they trained nearly 500 bus patrollers across multiple school boards.
The School Safety Patrol Program was first developed in Canada in 1929. During this time, the automobile was quickly rising in popularity and collisions involving children aged four to 14 were at an alarmingly high rate. The program aims to protect and educate young children from being injured or killed in traffic collisions by teaching them safe—street crossing practices and bus safety.
As part of the award, the SSSC received a $1,500 cheque to be used towards the SSP program in the region, a CAA Plus Membership for the program leader being acknowledged, a plaque and a special awards ceremony.
The CAA School Safety Patrol program is a joint effort between CAA, the police, school boards, busing consortia, teachers, parents and approximately 20,000 dedicated student volunteers. Those involved give their time to ensure their peers remain safe at road crossings and on school buses throughout Ontario.