Montrose Elementary School playground issues and a new concussion policy for athletes were just two of the topics school board members tackled during a marathon five-hour meeting in Bexley last week.
Board President Carol Fey has been trying to streamline monthly board meetings, intent on whittling away at lengthy sessions that seem to be a growing trend in Bexley.
But this month's issues proved to be too weighty.
Montrose playground committee members Kelly Salmon and Meg Matteson addressed the board, asking for community support to help erect a new school playground, to address ongoing functionality issues on the current playground and to ask for more district dollars to help fund playgrounds within the district.
Salmon questioned why private money is used to fund new playground equipment, saying socioeconomic differences among schools in Bexley make it more difficult for some to raise needed dollars. She also pointed out that often, parent volunteers who know little about the process are seeking and awarding bids for major playground projects -- knowing all the time that the school board could veto any part of the privately funded project should its members disagree with any part of it.
"This seems to me to be strange," said Salmon.
She asked the district to consider developing a fund to finance the renovation of school playgrounds.
Superintendent Mike Johnson pointed out that the district budget does cover irrigation, maintenance and upkeep of school playgrounds. The district must review contracts for these kinds of projects, he added, so it can ensure liability coverage.
But at least one board member who spearheaded a similar project years ago agreed there are issues.
"It bothered me when I did it," said board Vice President Marlee Snowdon, who was chairwoman of the Maryland Playground Project. "We have a responsibility to our students to allow for safe play and activity. I'm not advocating that we give a huge pot of money ... but I'm not sure the way we do it now is the best way to do it."
Fey promised the board would look into the matter.
In response to House Bill 143, which was enacted earlier this year, school board members considered a new policy addressing concussions among student athletes.
House Bill 143 requires steps to be taken to educate parents, youth coaches and officials about symptoms of concussions, and that a young athlete who shows such symptoms be immediately pulled from a game by a number of people -- not just the coach.
A youth could not return to competition unless cleared by a physician.
As required by the state, every school board must approve a policy addressing concussions. Students also are required now to sign the policy agreement before participating in a sport.
Bexley's new policy ensures that any coach, official or trainer who suspects an athlete has suffered a concussion must remove the athlete from play and conduct a five-step process before the athlete returns to either a practice or play.
The first reading of the new policy received unanimous approval by Bexley board members.