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Guelph Police Officer Receives the CAA School Safety Patrol Program Achievement Award

How the Guelph police helped keep the safety program operating despite the pandemic

A boy is sitting at a desk. He has black-framed glasses and is wearing a V-neck striped shirt that is grey and teal. He is holding a yellow pencil with an eraser at the end and looking at a notebook.

When the Covid-19 hit in March 2020, Ontario schools were forced to cancel almost all of their activities.

But Constable Sherry Pettapiece of the Guelph Police Service was determined not to let Covid-19 sidetrack the CAA School Safety Patrol program. For more than 90 years the CAA-led initiative has been helping to keep kids safe as they travel to and from school.

Revitalizing participants

Pettapiece worked closely with administrators and teachers across Guelph to have the safety patrol program running by the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

Thirty-eight of the 43 schools that normally participate in the program renewed, with about 1,100 Guelph students taking part in the program. This meant Pettapiece had the highest level of school participation in Ontario.

Award-winning recognition

A police officer in full uniform with a black cap with a red ribbon around the middle, a black long-sleeved, shirt and a black vest is standing at a podium. On her vest is a small Canadian flag embroidered on it. She is holding a glass award and a black and gold plaque. Each have the CAA logo on it. Behind her is a wall with a dark blue background with a gold and white logo and the words Guelph Police Service repeated.

For that work, CAA recently presented her with the 2021 CAA School Safety Patrol Program Achievement Award. The honour recognizes police services and officers who have made an outstanding contribution to the program.

Pettapiece felt it was important to keep the program going not only to safeguard students, but also to provide them with a small sense of normalcy.

Creative training for students

The CAA School Safety Patrol program gives pupils leadership responsibilities and a sense of belonging, Pettapiece says. “They got to continue with something extracurricular and that's really important.”

Pettapiece, who has been involved with the program since 2017, says the pandemic threw a wrench into Patroller training plans.

Social distancing rules meant the student volunteers couldn’t train on buses, so Pettapiece set up chairs outside of schools to mimic the layout of a bus.

Celebrating Patrollers

Movie days and camping trips, which are designed to celebrate Patrollers, were cancelled during the pandemic.

As a result, Pettapiece got creative, holding a Halloween photo contest and a Valentine’s Day poetry competition.

She also created an award for the most dedicated Patroller at each school and secured tickets to Guelph Storm junior hockey games for top performers.

A team effort

Pettapiece says she isn't the only one who deserves credit for the program’s success, though. She praised the work of teachers and administrators who helped to deliver the initiative in their schools.

“It’s a rewarding program and it's been an honour to work with the students and CAA throughout the five years I’ve been doing this,” she says. “But I am definitely hoping that we'll be back to normal next year so that we can fully recognize all that the kids have done.”

The collective efforts by dedicated schools and community members like Constable Pettapiece highlights the value of the program and the importance of keeping school zones safe.

Read on

Learn more about the CAA School Safety Patrol program and how you can help to keep students safe.