A young girl climbs on ropes at a playground. Photo courtesy of iStock.
A young girl climbs on ropes at a playground. Photo courtesy of iStock.

School is back in session.

But when classes end, does your child’s school lock up its recreational facilities?

Many Latino families in San Antonio and across the nation live near schools that lock fields, courts, pools, and playgrounds before and after class, meaning kids miss out on the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of exercise, activity, and play.

Salud America! has launched a campaign to encourage open and shared use of school's recreational facilities. Image courtesy of Salud America!
Salud America! has launched a campaign to encourage open and shared use of school’s recreational facilities. Image courtesy of Salud America!

That’s why Salud America! is launching a new, three-part campaign to encourage schools to boost public access to recreational facilities. Based at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San AntonioSalud America! is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation national program that aims to prevent and reverse Latino childhood obesity.

Open and shared use policies can increase opportunities for physical activity and play among families. Schools can adopt an open use policy to formally grant public access to its recreational facilities after school hours. They also can work with other groups to develop a shared use agreement, a contract to allow the sharing of school facilities for the public or groups after hours.

Sky Harbour Elementary School is an example of community, school, and city officials successfully working together to achieve a shared use agreement. The joint effort created SPARK Park, a new community park with a playground, exercise equipment, trails, and an amphitheater that is open to the public after school hours. The effort illustrates how city officials, a nonprofit organization, a school district, a PE coach, students, parents, and other community members can work together to bring important improvements to the physical environment that can increase local options for physical activity.

Each of the stakeholders saw the need for more play space in the community and supported a shared use agreement to guarantee access to Sky Harbour’s recreational facilities on school grounds after school hours. From start to finish, each group played a vital role in assuring that the children of this underserved community would have a safe, inviting environment to play.

In just three easy steps, parents can help boost their children’s access and eagerness to move, play, and spend time outdoors:

First, they can download Salud America!’s free tool kit, which gives an overview of how to ask local school leaders to consider creating an open use policy for their recreational facilities. Increasing opportunities for physical activity and play greatly reduces disease risk, helps improve children’s physical, mental, and emotional health, and is beneficial to teachers, students, and parents alike.

Next, they can sign Salud America!’s letter campaign to urge their State PTA to help schools adopt shared or open use policies for recreational facilities. This can serve as a beacon of good health for local residents, boost community safety, and increase children’s opportunities for physical activity.

Finally, parents can join Salud America!’s social media effort by sharing photos of recreational facilities to which they want their kids to have access. By amassing images tagged with #ActiveSpaces, the campaign aims to create community awareness and involvement in hopes of favorably influencing open and shared use policies. Parents who participate in the social media initiative may also enter a random drawing for a free Jawbone fitness tracker.

Children play on a jungle gym at Mountlake Terrace Elementary School in Mountlake Terrace, Wash. Photo courtesy of Salud America!
Children play on a jungle gym at Mountlake Terrace Elementary School in Mountlake Terrace, Wash. Photo courtesy of Salud America!

Parents, don’t miss the opportunity to download Salud America!‘s tool kit, sign the letter, and learn more about sharing active spaces photos to show support for the healthy school changes.

The future health and weight of San Antonio’s children depends on accessible opportunities for physical activity and play.

https://rivardreport.wildapricot.org

Top image:  A young girl climbs on ropes at a playground.  Photo courtesy of iStock.

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Amelie G. Ramirez

Amelie G. Ramirez, Dr.P.H., an internationally renowned health disparities researcher, is chair ad interim of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and director of the Institute for Health Promotion...