Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Following is a step-by-step program guide to the components of a "First Rider" program.

Organization of a First Rider Program should begin about six months prior to the date chosen for the event. The best times for the First Rider event to take place are either around the beginning of the school year, or in June prior to the end of school. Although late August or September may be preferred because the children taking part in the program are more likely to remember the safety rules they will learn, this is also a busy time for both children and parents. Many schools and school boards have a "kindergarten orientation / registration day" in June, and this may also be a good time to schedule the event, preferably with a follow-up in August or September.
Registration information for the First Rider program should be scheduled either to coincide with kindergarten registration or can be done by mail or by phone.
Depending on the location, level of participation, expected and size of catchment group, several different sessions to accommodate the number of eligible students may be scheduled. Publicity is essential to reach all potential participants and inform the public about the program. A school is an ideal site for the program because of the availability of all required facilities (auditorium, washrooms, bus loading areas, etc.) In order to accommodate families from different catchment areas, it may be beneficial to use two schools, and have the buses travel from one school to the other, making sure that the route is a safe one.
Numbers of participants
Experience in Thunder Bay, where the program, jointly sponsored by the Boards of Education, the school bus operators and a local road safety coalition, has been running for three years, shows that approximately 20 per cent of eligible students and their parents participate. The majority of these students are registered in junior kindergarten.
Program components
The First Rider program can take a number of forms, depending on the organization that is co-ordinating the program. Some options to consider:
* A video targeted at kindergarten level students
* Safety rules for school bus riding
* Participation by students in safe boarding and disembarking demonstrations
* A ride on a school bus
* question and answer sessions involving school bus driver, children and parents outlining bus safety features (using stationary bus), procedures
* Information handouts for parents, coloring or activity materials for students
Additional components of the program include an appropriate venue, publicity, optional refreshments.
Make sure that you have enough volunteers to assume responsibility for different areas, coordinating a successful First Rider Program is too much for one person to handle alone! The success of the program relies on the co-operation of different organizations: school boards, school vehicle transportation officials, school bus operators, etc. If organizing the program for the first time, launch it as a pilot project, perhaps using the kindergarten registrants in one school to start.

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