By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
The Starkville School District and the Starkville Parks and Recreation have reached an agreement that will open the school play and recreation spaces to the public during non-school hours.
“It all started with the Playful City USA status. The task force that was part of that team had a goal of increasing the number of play spaces that were open to the public within the city,” Starkville Parks and Recreation Director Matthew Rye said. “We looked at other cities where they were sharing play spaces and modeled our inter-local agreement after theirs.”
While it took several drafts of the agreement before both the city and school district were satisfied, both sides were committed to making it work.
“It was important because it allows our community, our children and our families to have access to play spaces,” Assistant Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin said. “In many neighborhoods within the city, children don’t have access to a park or playground. Transportation is a big issue, too. This will allow a lot of children to be able to walk to a safe place to play.”
A member of the parks and recreation maintenance staff is nationally certified for playground safety inspection.
“That employee will perform basically a yearly safety audit and will make recommendations on any changes or updates that need to be made to the playgrounds,” Rye said.
The official agreement has been sent to the attorney general for approval. Pending approval, the school playgrounds should be open to the public starting Nov. 1.
Hours will vary from school to school, but Gonsoulin said they would likely be open from the close of school until dusk each weekday, and from dawn to dusk on weekends.
“We want people to know that this is for adults, too. We have a walking track at Sudduth and a track at the high school,” Gonsoulin said. “We want the community to come. We are a family oriented, a community oriented school district.”
The school district will advertise official times once the agreement is approved.