The St. Michael-Albertville School District has posted new signs on a number of school playgrounds, causing a bit of a stir among local parents who want access during summer months and on weekends.
Not to worry, said Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault. Parents and kids will still be welcome. However, the signs are posted to give students in school district summer programs and schools priority from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., when the buildings are in use.
“We have had ongoing safety concerns with community members and children on our playgrounds and fields during recess, PE [physical education] classes, teachers bringing their classes outside for an activity, and during Kids Play. This spring, there were some escalated incidents that involved individuals yelling at our staff and their children, inferring with school activity,” Foucault, superintendent of STMA School District, said. “After consulting with our legal advisers, I made the decision to install the signs.”
One of the incidents involved a parent physically restraining a student, she added.
The playgrounds at Albertville Primary, the district’s Community Education Building (off of Central Avenue) and all three elementary schools – Fieldstone, St. Michael and Big Woods – have the signs posted.
“Our primary concern is the safety and security of our students and Kids Play students,” she said. “Our playgrounds are an extension of the classroom, and we are obligated to keep our students in our care safe. Likewise, parents expect us to keep their children safe when they are in our care.”
As for those who insist that paying taxes grants them access to playgrounds, Foucault agrees – just not when school or before/after school programs are in session.
“When there is not student activity, individuals and families are free to use the space. We just ask families to respect that when the class comes outside onto the playground, the students are there for under our care,” she said.
Additionally, adults at the playground – who may or may not be with a child – pose a risk.
“We conduct background checks and have approved the use of the Raptor System [an information and security system] at all of our buildings in order to screen for sex offenders and alert us to custody issues. It would be foolish of us to have these safeguards in place at our buildings but allow anyone to interact with our children on the playgrounds,” she said.
As for the typo on the signs – the sign maker has apologized for the error is an is fixing them this month at no cost to the district.
Residents should also know that the more than 20 public playgrounds and parks between St. Michael, Albertville, Hanover and Otsego are open during city designated hours to all residents.