Returning to school

Councillor, Capital Ward, Shawn Menard

Returning to school during COVID-19, a look back at a busy summer and a look ahead to a busy fall

It certainly was an unusual summer. It really doesn’t feel like September, but here we are!

COVID-19, mental health and the return to school

Perhaps the biggest issue these days is the return to school for elementary and high-school students. While many parents have chosen to keep their kids home for remote learning, most students will be returning to in-class instruction.

I sit as a member of Ottawa’s Board of Health, and want to pass on a screening tool parents can use: Click here:

This screening tool is designed to help parents and guardians make decisions about whether or not their children can attend school. This tool should be used daily.

It’s important that we all take care of our mental health as the pandemic continues. One option is going through your old contact list and checking in on old friends and acquaintances. It often makes a huge difference to people who may be struggling silently.

If you are in crisis, contact the Mental Health Crisis Line (24 hours a day/7 days a week) at 613-722-6914; if outside Ottawa , call toll-free at 1-866-996-0991. If you have a youth in crisis, contact the Youth Services 24/7 Crisis Line (24 hours a day/7 days a week) at 613-260-2360; if outside Ottawa, call toll-free at 1-877-377-7775.

Busy summer at City Hall

We were very busy this summer working on issues related to COVID-19, responding to many more resident requests than usual and discussing a few larger projects that will help improve the ward and the city.

This month, city council will look at two big transportation initiatives we’ve developed over the past few months. First, there are proposals for safety improvements to the Bank Street Bridge over the canal. It’s an ongoing safety concern for residents and, working with staff, we have developed a new design. It would feature wider multi-use paths on each side of the bridge for pedestrians and bicyclists. In addition, traffic would be reduced to three lanes, two northbound and one southbound. If approved by council, we anticipate this work being completed by the end of 2021. For more details, you can visit shawnmenard.ca.

This fall, we are also looking at implementing two more “Gateway Speed Zones” which allow us to lower the speed limit for an entire area. We hope to set a limit of 30 km/h in Old Ottawa South east of Bank Street and in Old Ottawa East south of the Queensway and west of Main Street.

We did that last year in the western portions of Old Ottawa South and in the Glebe, and we hope to do it eventually throughout the ward.

This summer, we were also able to ensure over $2 million in climate-change initiative funding for the city’s Energy Evolution program. This was at risk due to COVID-19 but now that it is secure, this will help work to push Ottawa to be a more sustainable, environmentally healthy city.

Last year, my office led a resolution through council acknowledging that Ottawa is currently facing a climate emergency. Programs like Energy Evolution are important to fighting the affects of climate change, and I am glad that it will be properly funded this year.

Library

The Sunnyside branch of the Ottawa Public Library is currently closed for in-person services, along with several other branches in the city. We are working very hard to see in-person service open again. I want to make it clear that the city is in no way, shape or form looking to close or revamp this branch. We have experienced staffing issues because of COVID-19. After a discussion with senior library officials, I’m pleased to say that Sunnyside Branch will be on the next list for reopening though it may be only part-time at first.

Ward boundaries

This summer, consultants hired by the city finished up their work on potential changes to ward boundaries, releasing six different options for the city to consider. As populations of different areas grow at different rates, we have to ensure everyone is represented fairly at city hall. This may mean expanding some ward boundaries, shifting boundaries and even adding one or two more wards and councillors.

Gatineau transit plans

In the coming months, the city will also be reviewing Gatineau’s plans to build its own light rail system, which will include running some trains through downtown Ottawa. They’re considering running trams along Wellington, and they’re also considering digging a tunnel under Sparks Street.

Budget 2021

And then once we get through all that, we’ll be into budget season! This will be challenging as the pandemic has had significant financial impacts on the city’s budget. It will require some creativity and some tough decisions to make sure that we are properly funding the services and projects this city deserves.

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