Where can I walk or play since my road is so busy and not safe? Don’t have a safe place near you? What if you can’t afford a gym membership or there isn’t a gym in your hometown? Those are questions that community members of Kershaw County no longer have to ask themselves. Options for safe physical activity and safe places to play have increased, thanks to the Open Community Use of School Recreational Areas policy recently adopted by the Kershaw County School District (KCSD).
The school district will begin opening some of its outdoor school recreational areas for community use after school hours, on holidays, and on weekends when the facilities are not in use with school-related activities. The board defines open recreational areas as “the playgrounds at our elementary schools and parking lots for walking.”
KCSD will post signage at the open community use sites that will include district rules and safety regulations for usage of the recreational areas. Children under the age of fourteen must be accompanied by an adult while at the recreational sites.
“This is a win for schools, children, and the community. It provides access for children and community members to play and be active,” stated Kershaw County School District Superintendent Harrison Goodwin. “We know healthy children are better learners. This is a great example of partners working together for a healthier community.”
Many community partners support open community use including LiveWell Kershaw, KC Trails, Wholespire Kershaw County, and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC). Wholespire Kershaw County worked closely with Kershaw County partners to advocate for the OCU policy.
“It’s a cost-effective policy adopted by many school districts around the state to increase access to safe places for physical activity,” said Wholespire Community Relations Manager Kelsey Sanders, MPH, CHES. “An important part of the policy is that protects against liability for schools, which is a major concern of administrators.”
SC DHEC Midlands Community Systems Team Member and Wholespire Richland County co-chair Robin Cooper said, “I was grateful for the opportunity to partner with Kershaw County Schools. Physical activity is important for better health outcomes and many don’t have access to places to be physically active. With the adoption of this policy, it offers the residents of Kershaw County the opportunity to engage in physical activity for better health outcomes.”
The SC DHEC Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Prevention and Wholespire partner to promote the SC School Board Association’s Open Community Use of School Recreational Areas Policy KFA. The OCU playbook, Breaking Physical Activity Barriers Through Open Community Use, was created to assist school districts in understanding and choosing to adopt an OCU policy.