Tuesday, May 20, 2003

School getting safer playground

Program aims to prevent injuries

By Anna Guido
Enquirer contributor

BATAVIA - Batavia Elementary puts many Band-Aids on "boo-boos" during the course of a school year, and blames a lot of student injuries on an outdated and unsafe playground. But that's all expected to change come July, when the pre-kindergarten-grade-5 school of 750 students gets a state-of-the art playground.

First-graders playing at Batavia Elementary are Kayla Jeffries, 7 (bottom), Allison Wagoner, 7 (left) and Taylor Wagner, 7.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
The new equipment and safety surface is being funded with an $82,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Health through the "School Injury Prevention" pilot project.

Batavia is one of two Ohio school districts to receive the funds. (Beaver Local School District in northeast Ohio is the other.)

"We want these schools to use the grant funds to rectify their problems," program administrator Angie Norton said.

As part of the two-year project, both schools are collecting data this year on the number and types of injuries that occur on their playgrounds. That information will be compared to the same type of data collected on the new playgrounds. The comparisons will be used in a state report on playground safety.

"I want other schools to look at these safety issues and I want plans for future measures," Norton said. "Childhood injury prevention is the goal."

Batavia Elementary's playground has pea gravel and asphalt surfaces. Kids stumble on the pea gravel and get scratched, or throw it. The spiral metal slides cause second-degree burns and have blind spots that cause collisions. Mouth injuries and dental fractures are frequent on the monkey cages. Students frequently trip over the tripod bases of the swing sets.

• New playground equipment at Batavia Elementary School will be installed July 12-13. Volunteers are needed.
• For information, contact Batavia Local School District Nurse Cathy Meyer at 732-0780. The playground, which is open to the public after school hours, will be dedicated in August. Ohio Gov. Bob Taft is expected to attend.
Assistant Principal Randy Willis said the 28-year-old playground is not up to standard and does not provide children with safe, interactive play, despite having "adequate and appropriate" adult supervision.

At a lunchtime recess this month, for example, third-grader Megan Elam, 10, of Batavia tripped on the pea gravel, fell on the asphalt and cut her knee. The wound was cleaned and bandaged, but Megan had to go to a hospital for further care.

School officials are confident the number of playground injuries will decrease when the new equipment and safety surface is installed.

District nurse Cathy Meyer applied for the grant and is managing the project. She refers to Batavia Elementary students as her "babies" and nurtures them like a mother.

"The new playground is a testimony to her love for the children of Batavia," Willis said.

Meyer works beyond the call of duty to help the school children, he said. She rides the bus home with students after school, makes home visits in the evening and sees to it that no child goes hungry on Thanksgiving Day.

"It takes a community anymore to raise kids, and we're in this as a team," she said.

E-mail annag1129@cs.com

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