Children at Lake Avenue Elementary School will be able to play outside this winter after a decision made Tuesday night in response to parents’ concerns that their children don’t get time to blow off steam outdoors after the ground freezes.
The school board’s Property Committee decided by consensus in a closed session to revert its recess policy to the one in place before last school year, when individual building principals made the call on whether students could go outside to the playground.
Last school year’s policy allowed students to play year-round in open fields, but not on playground areas with equipment, because falling on frozen ground would be dangerous, said Superintendent Michael Piccirillo. The problem for Lake Avenue Elementary children is that the landlocked urban school doesn’t have any open fields. So when children weren’t allowed on the playground for the entire winter, they couldn’t go outside.
Some parents at that school came up with their own solution, which they presented to the school board on Tuesday — open a little-used 6,000-square-foot parking lot to the youngsters in the winter and allow them to run around there.
The group, which calls itself Daily Outdoor Recess, got 153 people to sign an online petition, though not all live in the area.
“We were happy that the superintendent and the board listened and came to a decision,” said Tony Krackeler, father of three children who go to Lake Avenue.
He said that before last year’s ban on winter playground use, Lake Avenue Principal Barbara Messier was “very pro getting kids outside.” Students brought snow boots and snow pants to school every day in the winter and wore them outside.
During last year’s winter playground closure, Lake Avenue children divided their recess time between the gym and the classroom. At the very end of the winter, officials reached a compromise and allowed the children to play in the parking lot for a few days a week.
To open the parking lot adjacent to the playground on Tuesdays and Thursdays to the students, the district has arranged for all food truck deliveries to happen on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Piccirillo said. “There’s quite a few deliveries,” he said.
Some of the trucks enter the parking lot, while others are too big to do so.
Staffers have been asked to park in a different parking lot or on the street on those days also.
Concerning safety issue with frozen ground, Piccirillo said even though playground equipment is surrounded by material to cushion a child’s fall, “That material can freeze because it’s on the ground [and] there’s moisture.”
Studies have shown that youngsters benefit by getting physical exercise and unstructured time during the day to play.
A 2009 study by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine showed that third-graders who got 15 minutes or more a day showed improved learning, social development and better health.