Thinking outside the Box: Placing Park and Recreation Professionals in K-12 Schools
Dustin, Daniel, Hibbler, Dan, McKenney, Alexis, Blitzer, Laura, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance
It is time to place park and recreation professionals in K-12 schools--not only as after-school caregivers, teacher aides, and ancillaries to the educational enterprise, but as full-fledged partners in the educational process. This proposal is based on the following six facts: (1) public school facilities are grossly underutilized; (2) most of a child's life takes place outside of the classroom; (3) park and recreation programs effectively hook and hold children's attention for educational purposes; (4) park and recreation professionals have substantial teaching and counseling experience; (5) park and recreation professionals understand the importance of educating the whole child; and (6) the synergistic possibilities are extensive.
Underutilized School Facilities
Crompton (2000) makes a compelling case for the more efficient use of a school's physical plant by structuring its usage to serve both school and community needs. Crompton reasons that school facilities usually operate at only 18 percent of their full capacity. (This assumes that a school is used for nine hours per day times 180 days per year; for a total of 1,620 hours versus a potential usage of 24 hours per day times 365 days per year', or 8,760 hours.) If School facilities were available to the Community Mondays through Fridays from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sundays from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m., and 16 hours per day on 81 school vacation days, the total community usage would equal 43 percent of the physical plant's capacity. Together, the school and community usage would then total 61 percent of the school facility's potential.
Crompton adds that community recreation facilities usually are underused during the school day, while school facilities normally are underused after school. By taking advantage of recreational facilities that already exist at schools (e.g., gyms, swimming pools, tracks, baseball diamonds, football fields, soccer complexes, tennis courts, libraries, auditoriums, etc.), communities and taxpayers alike could be served better.
In order to implement the kind of cooperation that Crompton wants, there are a lot of obstacles to overcome, from a potential conflict over sharing the school equipment and supplies to increasing managerial complexity. The obstacles, however, appear surmountable in the name of the public interest and fiscal responsibility. The joint use of a single facility by teachers and park and recreation professionals may result in periodic friction in regard to the care, maintenance, and storage of equipment and supplies, but it is important to remember that those resources belong to the community, not to the individuals in charge of them. To make this collaboration work, school employees must relinquish any sense of personal ownership of the school's facility and property.
Finally, Crompton states that if schools are managed properly, they have the potential to serve a much larger social function as centers of activity that can create a strong sense of community.
We begin our proposal, then, with the knowledge that there are important cost savings in bringing park and recreation professionals into the schools. In fairness to Crompton, however, the reader must remember that he is not calling for park and recreation professionals to "infiltrate" the educational domain. Instead, he is calling for a more efficient sharing of the facilities' physical space between the schools and the park and recreation profession. Crompton provides a good rationale for allowing park and recreation professionals onto school grounds, but he stops short of suggesting, as we do, that they deserve more than just a foot in the door.
Life Outside the Classroom
There is more to a child's life and learning than what occurs inside the classroom. Teachers understand this as well as anyone else. Having closer contact with allied professionals who work with children in other contexts can only help classroom teachers do a better job of meeting the educational needs of their students. …