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School Board Hears Fifth Graders’ Playground Request

By Staff | May 21, 2009

PLAYGROUND PROPOSAL - A delegation of Emmetsburg Middle School fifth graders proposed that a playground area be added at the new middle school during the Emmetsburg Community Schools Board of Education meeting on May 18. Kiersten Duhn, Kyle Kassel, and Shea Ehlert (pictured from left, standing at the podium) were on hand to explain their ideas and answer the school board’s questions. – Lori Hall photo

A delegation of fifth grade students shared their proposal for a playground area with the Emmetsburg Community Schools Board of Education during their meeting on May 18, at the high school/middle school library.

Seven students were on hand, assisted by fifth grade instructor David Hadley, to address the board members.

“Starting July 1, there are some new laws and regulations that we have to follow at the school,” explained Principal Jay Jurrens. “One of those is that every student between Kindergarten and fifth grade needs 30 minutes of physical activity each day. In elementary school, that’s taken care of by recess and P.E. times. At the middle school, students get about 25 minutes every other day now.”

According to Jurrens, the fifth grade students began looking at ways to increase that time by utilizing math and surveys.

“As Mr. Jurrens was saying, we fifth graders would like to have a playground and have been working on this since January,” fifth grader Kyle Kassel began. “Mr. Hadley found the law [requiring 30 minutes of physical activity for K-5] on the Internet and showed it to us.”

Kassel shared that the fifth graders had worked together to survey students in grades 4-8 on their favorite physical activities, and had then used the results to determine the most popular choices. The top six ideas included: basketball court, kickball/softball, fitness trail, tables and benches, football field, and tether ball.

The students then broke their choices up into three stages.

“In Stage One, we’re planning on getting the basketball hoops, a diamond for kickball and softball, a field for soccer and football, and three tetherball courts. These are less costly items.”

Kassel continued, “When we get to Stage Two, we’ll need to get cement for the basketball court and we’re thinking of writing a grant for it to Wild Rose. For the last stage, Stage Three, we’re looking at a fitness trail.”

The playground area would be located northeast of the high school track and football fields, directly behind the new middle school parking lot.

“You’ve done a lot of work,” said Board President Karla Anderson. “This is very impressive. So, what do you think about this law that you have to have exercise?”

“We think it’s kind of cool,” Kassel replied.

“Wouldn’t doing 30 minutes of jumping jacks next to your desk meet the law?” joked Superintendent John Joynt.

“No,” Kassel smiled. “We did learn of this really dumb idea that you should count the minutes in between classes as your activities.”

Board member Dave VanOosbree wondered who would be writing the grants for the proposed project.

“We are hoping there would be enough funds in the next fiscal year to do the cement for the basketball court,” answered David Hadley. “We’ll be writing a grant for the fitness trail and Marcie Frevert [State Representative] said that she would help us with that.”

“Are those grants too complicated for kids to do?” VanOosbree asked.

“I don’t know,” said Hadley. “I look at what we’ve done here and this is more than what you think a fifth grader could do.”

VanOosbree noted that it would be a good thing for the students to be involved as much as possible with the grant writing process.

“I’ve been very impressed working with these kids,” Jurrens surmised. “We talked about funding and how money is an issue for the school, and that’s where they came up with the idea of doing things in stages. We talked about doing things that were fairly inexpensive right away, and then, as we continue to save or get money, do other things later on.”