Throughout the school year students have access to guest teachers and special programs, but due to building closures amid the coronavirus pandemic, many of those programs have ended as well.

Safe Routes to School, however, is getting ready to roll out a new campaign in Douglas County.

The federal grant program through the Oregon Department of Transportation is designed to teach children to get safely to and from school and includes bicycle and pedestrian education.

“We were getting rolling with bike fleets and bike rodeos and then the closures happened,” Douglas Education Service District Safe Routes to School Facilitator Janelle Newton said. “So now we’re trying to figure out how do we deliver our service now that schools are closed.”

On Monday, Douglas County’s Safe Routes to School team hopes to start posting virtual challenges, using #finditDoCo, and lessons on its Douglas County Safe Routes to School Facebook or Instagram pages.

AmeriCorps Safe Routes to School Facilitator Janelle Polcyn spent the last few weeks writing challenges for students that will include little poems.

“There are a lot of things you can find outside,” Polcyn said. “A bird, a flower, a cool tree. Those can be found everywhere in Douglas County, from downtown Roseburg to Glendale.”

Children can earn prizes such as water bottles, reflectors, lights, a bicycle or other items. The challenge will be posted on Mondays and prize drawings will take place each Friday until June 22.

“We want to encourage people to be active in a safe setting,” Newton said.

A website with an overview of the program, safety tips and information on Blue Zones’ Safe Streets initiative has also launched at https://douglasesd.k12.or.us/douglas-county-safe-routes-school.

Gov. Kate Brown released an executive order titled “Stay Home, Save Lives,” but Oregonians are encouraged to go for walks or jogs in their neighborhood while maintaining social distance, according to the Oregon COVID-19 Joint Information Center.

Newton said the emphasis of social distancing guidelines can help teach children to share the road with others.

“Part of being healthy is to move our bodies and be outside,” Newton said. “This is a good time to practice. Practice your route to school with less people.”

Polcyn added that children would ideally go out with a parent, adult or responsible older sibling to participate in these virtual scavenger hunts.

“Getting kids to be focused outside can be hard,” she said. “But if they’re outside walking and looking for something specific, it can keep them more focused.”

As the program is hosted by Douglas Education Service District, the campaigns will take place countywide.

“We recognize this is a bonus part of education, but it’s still part of becoming a well-rounded citizen,” Newton said. “We want to encourage kids to be active, but safety comes first.”

More information: https://douglasesd.k12.or.us/douglas-county-safe-routes-school or saferoutes@douglasesd.k12.or.us.

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at sgodfrey@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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