Helping parents and children make the transition back to school

Regional resources and supports to help you get ready for school

It’s that time of the year again for the kids to go back to school. Are you ready for school routines, packing lunches and making sure your kids children know how to get to school safely? As you enjoy the final days of summer vacation, I want to share with you a number of Regional resources that can help make your families’ transition back to school—safe and healthy.

Getting school-ready

Do you have a major change happening in your family? Is your little one starting kindergarten or maybe you have an older child starting high school? Halton Region offers two online resources filled with valuable tips and information to help you support your child as they start school. Ready, Set, Go!, for preschoolers starting kindergarten and Ready, Set, Whoa!, for teens, can help you navigate and support your child’s journey through the next stage of their life.

Keeping your immunizations up-to-date

Immunization is one way to protect our community from the threat of preventable diseases that can easily be spread in schools. If you haven’t already done so, please ensure your family’s immunizations are up-to-date and that your children have all of the legally-required immunizations to attend school. All updated immunizations must be submitted to the Health Department.

Halton has recently been making it easier for parents to report and request immunization records. You can now report immunizations either online, in person or by dialing 311. If you’re unsure what immunizations the Health Department has on file, we recently launched an online immunization records request form to give you a more convenient way to request a copy of the immunization records we have on file.

Safely getting to school

Teaching children to cross the road safely when walking or biking is an important first step towards independence. As parents, we start by holding their hand as they cross the road and reminding them to always look all ways before crossing. When our children begin to head to school with friends—it is still important to keep talking about safety. If your child will be going to school on their own, you may want to practice walking to school together so they feel comfortable with the route. Our website (halton.ca) also includes information on pedestrian and bicycle safety that can help reinforce important safety messages with your children.

Support for parents

Getting organized and managing the demands of “back-to-school” routines can feel overwhelming at times for parents and children. Remember you can call or connect online with HaltonParents where public health nurses will provide support, information and other resources to cope with those everyday issues. Connect with us online at halton.ca/haltonparents, on Twitter @HaltonParents and Facebook, by email at haltonparents@halton.ca, or dial 311 to speak directly with a public health nurse. I would like to wish all Halton parents, students, teachers and school staff a wonderful, safe, healthy and productive school year.

As always, if you have any Regional concerns or comments you would like to share, please feel free to email me at gary.carr@halton.ca. You can also find me on Twitter @garycarrhalton, LinkedIn or Facebook. To receive further updates on Regional issues, please subscribe to my quarterly e-newsletter, “The Carr Report”.

Celebrating Clean Air Day with Ka-Pow to Powerjams

Protecting public health, emergency preparedness, environmental health and air quality are all Citizens’ Priorities in Halton Region’s 2011-2014 Action Plan.

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On June 5, Halton Region celebrated Canadian Environment Week (June 2 – June 8, 2013) and Clean Air Day (June 5) at Milton Public Library with the first public reading of Ka-Pow to Powerjams, a picture book for children aged four to eight.

The launch at Milton Public Library was attended by more than 50 young students and featured a book reading, a visit from some special guests from the Mountsberg Raptor Centre, a presentation on asthma triggers and an emergency preparedness display.

Ka-Pow to Powerjams is the third and final book in a three-book series about the implications of air quality and climate change on human health. It builds on the themes presented in A Farewell to Featherwagons and Wings and Thingamajigs, completing the Owls for Climate Change series by exploring emergency preparedness themes and the linkages between climate change, severe weather and energy conservation.

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Over the next few months, copies of the book will be provided to public libraries in Halton as well as child care centres, schools, community networks and partners. A complementary Storytelling Kit is available online.

As this story illustrates, simple actions can have an impact in making our community healthy, energy smart and disaster resilient. This week, why not walk or bike to your local library and borrow a copy of the book to share with your children or grandchildren. Related to emergency preparedness, consider assembling or purchasing a 72 hour Go-Kit to use during an evacuation of your home or community.

Visit www.halton.ca/owlbooks to read all three books online.  Books one and two are available in English, French, Cantonese, Polish, Punjabi and Spanish; translations of book three will be available online this summer.

If you have any Regional concerns or comments you would like to share, please feel free to email me at gary.carr@halton.ca. You can also find me on Twitter @garycarrhalton or on Facebook. To receive further updates on Regional issues, please subscribe to my quarterly e-newsletter, “The Carr Report.”

Heart Health in Halton

At Halton Region, we encourage and support our residents to make healthy choices.  In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about how making healthy choices can help prevent the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death for both men and women in Halton but it is preventable and manageable. Eating healthily, keeping physically active and living tobacco-free can help reduce risk of heart disease.

Halton Region offers many programs and services that support healthy eating, physical activity and tobacco cessation. Below are some examples of the programs and services that the Halton Region Health Department provides.

  • Our Community Food Advisor Program helps educate community groups about the skills needed to adopt healthy eating habits. Participants also learn more about safe handling and food storage.
  • Farm to School works with local organizations to bring fresh, locally grown produce into Halton elementary schools to help influence healthy eating habits in a positive way that can also help children understand where food comes from.
  • Eat Smart helps employers in the Region provide healthy food choices to employees by offering awards to companies that maintain high standards of food safety while also offering nutritious food choices in the work place.
  • Walking is a great way to add physical activity into the day. The Count Your Steps Program is a partnership between Halton Region and participating libraries and municipalities that allows residents to borrow pedometers to help track their progress.
  • Through WalkON , Halton Region works to engage the community, municipal staff, and elected officials in the creation of built environments that support walking for active transportation.
  • Halton’s Stop Smoking Clinics work directly with residents who smoke to determine personalized methods of quitting, free of charge.
  • Our Tobacco Cessation Community of Practice brings together health professionals interested in helping people live smoke free to share and learn more about cessation.

If you would like to learn more about these and other programs, please dial 311 or visit www.halton.ca/healthresources.

If you have any Regional concerns or comments you would like to share, please feel free to email me at gary.carr@halton.ca. You can also find me on Twitter @garycarrhalton or on Facebook. To receive further updates on Regional issues, please subscribe to my quarterly e-newsletter, “The Carr Report.”

New online tools for parents: “Kindergarten: Ready, Set, Go!”

We’ve been making our website a priority over the past few years – to improve the information and resources we have available to the residents of Halton and increase the interactivity of our site. Now, parents of children ages three or four will find everything they need to know to help prepare their child for the transition to kindergarten in the new “Kindergarten: Ready, Set, Go!” pages.

Prepared in partnership between Halton Region, the Halton District School Board, the Halton Catholic School Board and the Ontario Early Years Centres, parents will find comprehensive information and interactive tools such as:

Topics and resources cover the five key areas of child development, health and building healthy lifestyles, setting routines, parenting tips, reading, schedules of school PD days and holidays, and upcoming local parenting presentations.Ready Set Go

In Halton, almost one in four five-year olds (Our Kids Network Report Card, Early Development Instrument) results is not ready for school. Halton Region, in partnership with our community organizations, want to help change this statistic and ensure parents in our region have the information, resources and support they need to help give their children the confidence and skills they need to succeed in school. The “Kindergarten: Ready, Set, Go!” pages should certainly help them achieve this goal.

Keep in mind that parents with children of any age – from pregnancy to raising teenagers –can connect directly with one of our public health nurses or child development staff at any time, in many ways, through HaltonParents:

As always, if you have any Regional concerns or comments you would like to share, please feel free to email me at gary.carr@halton.ca. You can also find me on Twitter @garycarrhalton or on Facebook. To receive further updates on Regional issues, please subscribe to my quarterly e-newsletter, “The Carr Report.”

Youth can make a difference!

Craig Kielburger addresses the audience at the Be a Hero awards ceremony.

Several talented Halton youth were recognized at an awards ceremony recently for our annual Be a Hero contest.  The awards ceremony for Be a Hero was held on November 21, 2012 and included Craig Kielburger, co-founder of Free The Children and Me to We.  Craig‘s message that “one youth can make a world of difference” nicely complemented the impressive contest submissions that were displayed around the room.  In Halton, our youth are making a difference and their contest submissions demonstrated they understood the importance of affordable housing and how it impacts people in our community.

In Halton, like many other communities in Ontario and Canada, we are building affordable housing units to ensure that individuals and families have access to safe and stable homes. A healthy community requires a range of housing options that meet the needs of all incomes and stages of life.  Youth, single adults, families, seniors, people with disabilities and recent immigrants all face challenges finding housing they can afford. The needs can be hard to see but they do exist. Housing is a complex issue that requires the support and involvement of government, the non-profit sector, the private sector and people in our community.

The top prize for this year’s contest was awarded to a class from Assumption Secondary School in Burlington for a YouTube video entitled “Home.” The class receives $1000 for their submission.  The additional prizes were awarded as follows:

  • 2nd Place – Cheryl Joseph from Iroquois Ridge High School (Oakville) for her poem “The Hard Way” ($500)
  • 3rd Place – Kylie Pinder from Nelson High School (Burlington) for her 3D model display “Everyone Deserves a Home” ($250)
  • 4th Place – Mayuri Mahendran from Iroquois Ridge High School (Oakville) for the book “A Place to Call Home” ($100)
  • 5th Place – A group of students from Craig Kielburger Secondary School (Milton) for their YouTube video about a youth struggling to find a home (Andrew Annis, Stephen Groulx-Mustafa, Sarah MacKay and Celena MacMaster) ($100)
  • Be a Hero Spirit Award – Iroquois Ridge High School for the highest number of participants in the contest

I congratulate all the contest participants for helping to raise awareness about the importance of affordable housing in Halton. Halton Region is committed through the Citizens’ Priorities – Halton Region’s 2011-2014 Action Plan to providing housing supports to address the needs of low income residents in Halton.  To learn more about this and Halton Region’s Comprehensive Housing Strategy visit  www.halton.ca.   To view my video blog about affordable and assisted housing, visit www.halton.ca/housingvideo.

YouTube videos submitted to this year’s contest are posted on the Be a Hero YouTube channel which can be accessed through www.halton.ca/beahero.

As always, if you have any Regional concerns or comments you would like to share, please feel free to email me at gary.carr@halton.ca. You can also find me on Twitter @garycarrhalton or on Facebook. To receive further updates on Regional issues, please subscribe to my quarterly e-newsletter, “The Carr Report.”

More than 4,000 students expected to attend the 2012 Halton Children’s Water Festival

Conservation Halton and Halton Region will be co-hosting the seventh annual Halton Children’s Water Festival (HCWF) from September 25 to 28, 2012 for students in grades two to five. The festival educates children about water, one of the world’s most precious resources, and is once again being held outdoors at the picturesque Kelso Conservation Area in Milton.

The Festival has grown every year since it began in 2006.  Grade two students were added in 2007, and the Festival expanded from three to four days in 2008. Attendance has also risen from 3,000 students in 2006 to more than 4,000 students expected in 2012.  After this year’s Festival, approximately 25,000 elementary school students will have had the opportunity to become environmental stewards while learning about water and the value of protecting and preserving it.

The Festival is co-hosted by Conservation Halton and Halton Region in partnership with the Halton District School Board, the Halton Catholic District School Board, The City of Burlington, The Town of Halton Hills, The Town of Milton and The Town of Oakville. This year, I once again have the pleasure of serving as one of the Festival’s Honorary Co-Chairs along with Conservation Halton Chairman John Vice.

Students will have a unique opportunity to learn about water in a fun and interactive way while covering Ontario curriculum requirements. New this year, French language activity centres will be piloted with grade five French Immersion students on Thursday, September 27.  The festival features nearly 60 curriculum-based, hands-on activity centres that incorporate four central water related themes including:

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Water Conservation and Protection
  • Water Health and Safety
  • Water and Society

The Festival is a community partnership that depends on over 150 volunteers each day to assist with various activities. Each year, Halton high school students, staff from partner organizations and community volunteers all generously offer their time, while gaining experience with community outreach, public speaking, teaching, and time management. The Festival also relies on in-kind and monetary support from organizations in the Halton community in order to make the festival easily accessible for Halton’s students. For more information on this year’s supporters visit www.hcwf.ca/supporterslist.htm.

The Festival is offered to Halton schools at a cost of $5 per child, which includes a full day at the Festival as well as transportation to and from the event. To learn more about the Halton Children’s Water Festival, please visit www.hcwf.ca.

As always, if you have any Regional concerns or comments you would like to share, please feel free to email me at gary.carr@halton.ca. You can also find me on Twitter @garycarrhalton or on Facebook. To receive further updates on Regional issues, please subscribe to my quarterly e-newsletter, “The Carr Report.”

The Third Annual Student Equity Leadership Summit

On May 8, I had the opportunity to attend the Halton District School Board’s Student Equity Leadership Summit. This Summit brought together local business and community leaders, young people and government officials and offered them an opportunity to come and work together to better our communities.

Each year, the Student Equity Leadership Summit focuses on an important theme and this year was no different as the importance of social justice and financial literacy were highlighted. Inspiring youth to pursue business and ethics will benefit our community for years to come.

Witnessing our current business and community leaders coming together with our future leaders, I was reminded of the important role Regional government plays in providing our young people an opportunity to fulfill their potential. Civic engagement not only plays an important role in shaping our Region but also provides the youth of Halton a chance to help influence changes happening around them.

The Student Equity Leadership Summit reminds us all that one of the duties of the present generation is to help build a foundation from which the next generation will learn about their responsibility as Canadians to think globally and act locally. I’m happy to say that as I met Halton’s young people, I know our future is in good hands.

If you have any Regional concerns or comments you would like to share, please feel free to email me at gary.carr@halton.ca. To receive further updates on Regional issues, please subscribe to my quarterly e-newsletter, “The Carr Report.”