Loudoun School Board Lifts Playground Prohibition on Swings, Seesaws, Merry-go-rounds

Big news for kids looking for a bit more adventure during recess: Swings, seesaws and merry-go-rounds will be now allowed on Loudoun County public school playgrounds.

The School Board tonight adopted a first-time policy that outlines what type of play equipment is allowed on school property. The proposed policy initially included a sentence that stated that swings, seesaws and merry-go-rounds were prohibited “due to common inappropriate use and associated injuries.” But the board voted to strike that sentence, following an amendment suggested by Joy Maloney (Broad Run).

Before the board’s July recess, Maloney had requested data that supported that statement that kids are hurt on swings, seesaws and merry-go-rounds more than other equipment.

Kevin Lewis, assistant superintendent of Support Services, told her Tuesday that his staff could not find data to support that, in part because reports from emergency rooms only capture severe injuries and it’s difficult to identify what equipment was being used when the patient was injured.

Plus, Lewis added, “improvements have been made to that equipment in recent years, so we’re comfortable with allowing those.”

The policy states that equipment on school property should comply with generally accepted playground safety guidelines found in the Virginia Department of Education’s Guidelines for School Facilities in Virginia’s Public Schools and the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Public Playground Safety Handbook.

The county follows the latter handbook to guide what it allows in public parks. The county’s parks allow “single plane” swings, seesaws with a spring that limits the trajectory, and merry-go-rounds equipped with a “slow-down” mechanism to control its speed, according to Lewis.

School Board member Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) noted that the board accomplished two things tonight: put in place a policy where one has been needed for years and identified an out-of-date practice.

“This has been a longstanding practice within LCPS; however, if it’s not based on evidence, I support removing it (from the policy),” he said, adding that “several other jurisdictions have this type of equipment.”

The next school in line to get a playground under the new policy is Waxpool Elementary, set to open next year in Ashburn.

dnadler@loudounnow.com
twitter.com/danielle_nadler

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