Passionate playground parents came out in force at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Saratoga Springs City School Board.
They asked the board to open at least a section of an alley behind the school for Lake Avenue Elementary School children to play on this winter. About half a dozen parents took the podium to state their case. One parent contended that some students stayed indoors all day for 27 days in a row last winter.
“All kids benefit from and need time outside during the day,” said parent Rosemary Ratcliff. “We need your leadership” to make it happen.
This is not the first time parents from Lake Avenue School have come before the school board to discuss this issue.
Parents’ complaints were summed up in three main points: the district should not unilaterally close all play structures at all six elementary schools for the winter, but leave that decision up to each building principal. They also noted that Lake Avenue, because of its in-town location and small lot size, is most adversely affected by the blanket policy; and they lobbied the board to help find a solution instead of just saying no.
A petition with more than 100 signatures is circulating online.
Lake Avenue’s problem boils down to the fact that the school of 428 students sits on a small property. So while the other elementary school students all have open space to play on if their play structures are too slippery or the ground frozen too hard for safety, Lake Avenue students don’t have anywhere else to play.
Parents have proposed the district convert a 6,000-square-foot alley and parking area into open play space. The first step is to properly fence it, said Patrick Kane who lives right next door to the school.
District officials assert that trucks making deliveries to the school cafeteria use that alley and present a safety hazard for children, But Kane says only one delivery truck uses the alley now. And Kane says its driver has told him he could join other truckers who park on Marion Place instead.
On Sept 17, Saratoga Wire reported that the school board property subcommittee agreed to give kids alley time on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But it remains unclear whether that will actually be the new policy. And play space advocates say it’s not enough.
Kane and others said that parents could raise the $5,600 needed to erect adequate fencing and the kids could be out there as early as this year’s first snowfall.
Board members listened, but according to their own rules they made no comment during the meeting. Board President Regina Gapzynski thanked the parents for their comments and told them the board is still working on the matter.
At the end of the meeting Board member Michal Ladd, also a parent of a Lake Avenue student, asked parents to have patience as the board works on all the intricacies of the problem.
The meeting took place at Greenfield Elementary School, whose principal, Tina Davis, gave a report on the school’s academic progress and its varieties of services and activities.
Laura Rappaport is a staff writer for Saratoga Wire covering school issues
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