Walt Fischer, director of Flagler schools’ plant services, presented to the Flagler County School Board Tuesday, Dec. 6, an equity report for all district playgrounds.
“This is a work in progress,” Fischer said. “We’re going to try to bring some objectivity … to our (district) playground facilities.”
Fischer and his committee strive for playground equity through analysis of equipment cost, capacity (current and maximum) and safety.
Bunnell, for example, has a total student population of 1,182 and a playground capacity of 236 at a time, which accounts for 19.97% of its enrollment, the highest ratio in Flagler (not including Phoenix Academy). Should the school reach its population limit of 1,589, its equipment would then account for 14.85% of its population, still the highest in the maximum-projected district.
Old Kings Elementary, with 1,114 total students and a playground capacity of 120, has an equipment ratio of 10.77%, the lowest in Flagler.
“You’re going to see that, by and large, there are no huge discrepancies between the schools,” Fischer said. “Our playgrounds are really in nice shape.”
His department also standardizes playgrounds by procedure, inspection checklists, building code, life cycle costs and more. Equipment is replaced when it becomes unsafe or beyond repair, he added.
There is no “developed standard” for how much and what kind of equipment any school should have, Fischer explained. So he sees his report as more of a “data snapshot,” a barometer from which to measure whether a school is on par.
“This is going to be a very helpful document down the road (to ensure safety and equity),” Superintendent Janet Valentine said.
In total, the district has spent $705,000 on playground equipment, for a total of 5,951 students. The equipment has a total student capacity of 859 at a time, or 14.43% of all students.
As Fischer pointed out, however, that number is not including the $18,000 to $20,000 in shade covers that his department has been installing over all outside facilities.
Toward the end of the presentation, board Vice Chairman Andy Dance changed the focus of discussion.
“But are we letting kids actually use (the facilities) enough?” he asked, in reference to recent changes in recess structure. “(Do we) allow the kids to have some energy runoff, so they’re not bouncing off the walls inside of class?”
According to Valentine, elementary students are required to have 150 minutes of outdoor time per week. But in recent years, those minutes have been transferred to physical education class, where kids have “structured recess.”
“The assumption would be that for physical education, they are using the playground equipment,” she said, adding that she would ensure all equipment is being utilized. She will present her findings to the board at a later date.