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School Playgrounds Could Open Up To Neighborhoods

Sarasota County School Board and County Commission members are discussing the possibility of allowing access to school playgrounds and fields to neighborhoods after school hours and on the weekends.

Taking the kids to the playground at your neighborhood school might become possible if the and County Commission come to an agreement.

The two boards discussed Wednesday morning at a joint session inside the about opening up schools for community use after hours and on the weekends — especially ball fields and playgrounds.

County Administrator Randall Reid said he will work with Schools Superintendent Lori White and city managers to discuss shared resources and how and when the schools can open up their resources.

School board member Frank Kovach became nostalgic recalling that in his day, kids could easily walk over to and play.

"We have concerns with vandalism, but still back then all the kids went over to Gulf Gate and play football, baseball, basketball and whatever else is going on," he said.

Most schools are fenced in and locked up after hours preventing anyone from using them. School Board Chairwoman Caroline Zucker joked she considered sneaking under a fence opening with her grandchildren for them to use the playground at a nearby school, but thought otherwise if she were to be caught on camera. But the point is, she said, is that kids and families can't access something so useful that's so close.

"I don't hear the kids playing in the backyard at the school like I used to anymore," Zucker said. 

The key components will be how to provide proper security and how prevent vandalism and in case of vandalism, the process for quick repairs and replacement, she said.

And there's also the case of personal responsibility of cleaning up your or your pets mess, School Board member Shirley Brown said, such as what had happened at .

"People would walk their dogs on the playing field and kids were out there on the playing fields and run into dog doo all the time," she said. 

Commissioner Carolyn Mason believes that discussion of responsibility has to start at the neighborhood level.

"It affects us all, and I think a wonderful way to do it is to use neighborhood associations and homeowners associations around the schools to help start conversations with neighborhoods and people so that we can get their input, so they can fully understand what their responsibility will be in all this," she said.

Would you like your neighborhood school's playgrounds and fields to be open for use after hours and on weekends? What about other parts of the school? Tell us in the comments.

Brian August 30, 2012 at 10:53 AM
I don't think it's a great idea. I live near one that people let there dogs pee and poop all over then the kids use the same playground! They drive cars all over them. There is another track in Sarasota that a school uses for training but after school people let there dogs loose! I love my dogs, they are part of my family, but I would never let them loose or have them in a car. Too much of a risk! Brian
TerryDee August 30, 2012 at 11:15 AM
Schools grounds belong to the tax payers of this country. We can protect the expensive assets by keeping the facilities fenced but offer access to the grounds. We have many laws in-place to punish vandals, trespassers and rule breakers, we just need to "enforce them" consistently! TerryDee
Patricia Horwell August 30, 2012 at 01:08 PM
I raised my kids in NY - on Long Island and served on my school board as well. Our playgrounds were ALWAYS open to the taxpaying community. Schools are used there for voting and community organizations. Little League and soccer clubs also rented the grounds for games. Schools belong to the community.
f s. August 30, 2012 at 01:47 PM
I agree with the pros on this. We pay for them and they should be used for the children everyday after school . Now only if Mantee county will follow suit !!!!!!!!!!
AL Powers September 01, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Schools all over the USA are open for after hours and weekend use. Take a look at your annual Property Tax Bill and tell me where the biggest chunk goes... to the Schools! Now why can't we the Tax Payers use this Resource? We pay for it, over and over again. And we allow paranoid namby-pamby administrators to steal this right away from us, with lame excuses. ( Dog poo, ever since 9/11, etc.) Shame on the uptight Sarasota School Board. It's for the kids and the rest of us. Play ball, have fun, like we use to... What ever happened to Community Spirit? Isn't this still American!

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