POTTSTOWN PA – Complaints from families who allege their children have come home with more bruises and bandages after mid-day play at Ringing Rocks Elementary School will cause the Pottsgrove School District to re-train some staff members who supervise recess activity, increase chances for structured play, and ask parents to promptly report specific problems.
What administrators won’t do, yet, the Board of School Directors heard Tuesday (Sept. 25, 2012), is reduce the number of students occupying Ringing’s recess area or change current policies on when and how parents are notified of what its nurses might consider minor or routine injuries.
The district is responding primarily to a still-growing number of comments on social media platforms, a comparatively small number of direct calls to the school or district office, and most recently an anonymous opinion phoned in to The (Pottstown PA) Mercury’s “Sound Off” column and published Sunday (Sept. 23).
“There’s a growing concern in Pottsgrove School District regarding recess at Ringing Rocks and West Pottsgrove,” the Sound Off opinion began. “Ringing Rocks has approximately 150 kindergarteners out at the same time with five aides and West has about 100 children out with five aides. This is entirely too many children per one adult. Are there any regulations? Many children have been coming home with bumps, bruises, cuts and some broken bones. The district needs to hire more help.”
At Ringing Rocks, visits to a nurse by children related to recess incidents – about 13 percent of all nursing visits during the period of Aug. 27 through Sept. 14 – is up slightly from 11 percent for approximately the same period last year, Assistant Superintendent Shellie A. Feola acknowledged. The majority of them, she said “were for scrapes, bruises and skinned knees.”
To help deal with that increase, Feola added, the district intends to:
- Retrain recess duty aides at Ringing “to get them more engaged with the kids” and, by being proactive, hopefully better control playtime mishaps;
- Finish recess area improvements that had been delayed at Ringing. They include re-painting of game squares and surfaces on new paving there, and the installation of swings and funnel ball equipment; and
- Encourage parents to notify building principals first and, failing that, the district office, of specific incidents or concerns. “We’re going to be very open if these things are brought to our attention,” Feola said.
Parents Rick Rabinowitz and Greg Barry, who attended the board meeting at the Kauffman Road office, suggested that more children were occupying the recess area now than in the past and that some incidents likely were attributable to the size of the play crowd.
The district’s desire to increase “socialization” among students in different classes, and its need to create dedicated time in which teachers can confer on student performance issues, make it unlikely the recess schedule will change, according to Feola.
At least one board member seemed unconvinced the problem, if it existed, was a significant one. Director Michael Neiffer scoffed at what he called “the absurdity of it all” by noting that before this year’s change to educational centers the district heard few if any concerns about recess incidents at Ringing. Current complaints, he indicated, were motivated by dissatisfaction with the board’s redistricting decisions.
Parents won’t be personally notified, by a note or phone call, of future playground incidents involving their children unless they involve serious medical consequences, Feola added. They include a need to leave the building, a need for follow-up care, a substantial increase in nursing visits by a specific child that may signal a problem, or other circumstances in which contact “is deemed necessary by a nurse.”
At Ringing alone, Feola said, a nurse sees an average of 40 students daily, or roughly six every hour. The load “makes it almost impossible to call parents” and accomplish other tasks too, she claimed.
Related (to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ Sept. 25 meeting):
- Ringing Rocks’ Recess Concerns Prompt Some Changes
- Three Down, One To Go In Pottsgrove Busing Issues
- Acting Superintendent Taps Experience From FL, OH, PA
- Pottsgrove Names Shellie Feola As Acting Superintendent
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