As the province recommends finding alternative ways to go to school and more students prepare to walk, the Winnipeg Police Service wants children to stay safe.

The reopening of schools in Manitoba is coming with new recommendations. The province says that private means of transportation are being recommended for this upcoming school year instead of taking a school bus. For Manitobans choosing this option, that could include walking or biking to school for the first time.

"I think there is an acclimation period because everyone has been locked down for so long," Staff Sergeant Sean Pollok says. "Kids are going back to school now and we have to be aware that they will be on the roadway."

As schools have not been in session since March, Pollok says many people may have forgotten about things like school zones and say students need to be cautious. For many people, this will be the first time their children will be going to school on their own.

The sergeant understands parents many have concerns about children walking to school. While he says parents may be experiencing anxieties about their children walking to school, there are ways to help ease them.

Before school starts, Pollok says families can do a walk-thru of the route.

"I think from a parent's perspective, and I am a parent, I just want to make sure that I have a look at the route my child is going to take, be aware of the hazards they are most likely to come into contact with and have a very open conversation with them about what their responsibilities are as far as making sure that they are following those rules."

Pollok says that there are several things that children can do to stay safe while walking, including making eye contact with drivers.

"Although there are reduced school speed zones around in school in our city, there is still the need to make sure that they can actually see the driver of the vehicle because that, in theory, should confirm that the driver can see them."

Both pedestrians and bikers are recommended to know what is required while on roadways.

He also says he recommends walking in groups, as there is "strength in numbers." Pollok says that is important for all group members to know how to follow road rules.

"Everyone using our roadways, whether it is a motorist, cyclist, or pedestrian, they all have the responsibility to know the rules of the road and that they follow them," Pollok says. "Everyone has a role to play, and we want to make sure they stay safe."

Pollok says to use sidewalks and trails as much as possible and to obey all road signs and traffic lights.

Beginning on September 1 province-wide, school zones came into effect. Pollok says following those speed limits, as well as being aware of high-traffic times are important for drivers to do.

The sergeant says high-volume times include seven a.m. to nine a.m., the lunch hour, and three to five p.m.

"One of the things the pandemic has shown us is kids are still trying to be kids. They want to get outside and be with their friends."

The sergeant expects children to frequent playgrounds throughout the fall at all hours of the day.