The STMA School district, like many others in the country, is working to improve safety for its students while they are at school or attending school activities.
Because the school grounds are part of the educational and recreational space of the schools, Superintendent Ann-Marie Foucault recently had signs put up at Albertville Primary School, the three Elementary Schools and the Community Education Facility stating that the school grounds are reserved for school activities from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on week days.
Just as people are not allowed to enter and roam inside the buildings without permission and identification, people not associated with the school programs will not be welcome on outdoor spaces when students are present.
Foucault said, “Our playgrounds are an extension of the classroom and we are obligated to keep students in our care safe.” She pointed that a new system is being installed in all buildings to screen visitors and added, “It would be foolish of us to have these safeguards in place in our school buildings but allow anyone to interact with our children on our playgrounds.”
There has been an increasing use of the playgrounds while classes are in session and visitors to the playground have refused to leave when asked by staff members wanting to use the areas with their students. In some cases children trying to share the space with the classes have not adhered to the rules established by the school and parents have interfered with students and school programs. A few times the staff members had to cancel planned activities and move their students back into the school to avoid confrontational parents.
The signs were put up to make people aware that when students are using the outside areas for school activities, other people cannot be present. An additional factor was that when the signs were put up there was a misspelled word. Albertville was correctly spelled on the proof but an additional “i” was inserted at the printer. When the error was noted the signs were replaced by the company at no extra charge to the district.
The schools are used for activities year round and playground and nature activities are built in to these programs. Several schools have outdoor classroom areas. The Kids Play program begins at 6 a.m. lasts until 6 p.m. to accommodate working families.
As much as possible the district encourages community use of all its facilities, but students and educational activities take priority.
Foucault said, “If there is not a school activity, people are free to use the areas. If the areas are being used by classes, they cannot be there.”