Should Schools Hire Park and Recreation Professionals to Serve as Resource Specialists, as Proposed in "Thinking outside the Box" (Jan. 2004 JOPERD)?

Article excerpt

Anyone contemplating the question of linking school and recreation professionals would be well advised to look at "the city of the lighted schoolhouse," a Milwaukee model. This relationship has been in place for almost a century. Recreation programs and the professionals who run them are an integral part of the Milwaukee public school system. This relationship carries out the mission of enriching the lives of youths, adults, and families through extended, innovative programming. The cost-efficient model generates programs that are designed to improve the academic achievement and use of leisure time for all students. I grew up in Milwaukee, and I am pleased to see that this nurturing relationship is still alive and well.

--Bill Connor, professor, Health and Human Performance, University of Montana-Western, Dillon, Montana.

I agree that communities would see numerous benefits by placing parks and recreation professionals into schools. However, the authors suggest that the use of the school's recreational facilities would eliminate the need for such facilities located off-campus. This is not possible for schools in poverty-stricken areas like Bolivar County, Mississippi.

Schools in Bolivar County, where over 50 percent of families rely on welfare, have little or no funds available to build the number of athletic fields, courts, and recreation areas a community needs. Most campuses elsewhere do not even have enough room for additional athletic facilities. The authors state that "the money saved by not building separate recreation facilities and not staffing and maintaining them would result in substantial savings." That would be true for areas that have existing facilities available on campus to make a consolidation, but for most school districts in Mississippi, that is not possible. Many communities here survive on seasonal economic boosts generated by youth-league sports tournaments held at facilities that are too large for campuses. Losing such facilities in order to move directly into public schools could potentially become an economic burden. In short, these authors succeed in providing a great idea that would benefit education, but they fail to consider how existing schools in rural districts could possibly make such a transition.

--David Mann, graduate student, Delta State University, Cleveland, MS.

I think this is a good idea in theory, but I have a few logistical concerns. My first concern is with having a park and recreation professional working for the school. Where would the money come from to hire a full-time and part-time professional? Schools are cutting back programs as it is and often one of the first programs to get cut is the physical education program. I think it would be difficult to have both recreation professionals and physical educators in a school because the administration may view them as doing similar jobs. Administrations might consider hiring a part-time park and recreation professional, but anything more would be difficult to attain.

Another concern of mine is having the school open for community use. It would be easy to have a school serve as the community center, which would give students something to do after school so that they do not get into trouble. But there are some drawbacks. If the gym were being used, where would the school teams practice? Who is liable if someone gets hurt after school hours? In addition, who would pay people to work after school and on the weekends? Lastly, would the school pay for equipment that the whole community uses? I would have to see these issues addressed before I made a decision as to whether I liked the plan or not.

--Autumn Sparks, physical education student, Northwest Missouri State University, Maryville, MO.

"Thinking Outside the Box" is both an invigorating and innovative read. It is also a telling, indeed cautionary, tale of missed opportunities within the education setting. …