"When parents come to school regularly, it reinforces the view in the child’s mind that school and home are connected and that school is an integral part of the whole family’s life.” Michigan Department of Education – Parent Involvement Fact Sheet.

In March of this year the Kyrene School District made a policy change that affected the morning drop-off routine at the school my oldest son attends. For the first time ever, the playground has been closed to parents bringing their children to school. Since the playgrounds have now been closed, more teachers are security guards to keep the children safe on the playground.

The district-wide closure of the playgrounds was put in place as an additional safety measure and although I am pleased that the district is looking for more ways to keep our children safe, here are my reasons for wanting to keep our playground open.

I believe giving the principals of each school the option of keeping the playground open or closed is the way to go. Who else besides the principal and staff of each school knows what is best to keep their children safe? As a parent who walks my son to school everyday and enjoys watching him interact with his friends and classmates on the playground, I find it wrong that the district is using a “blanket” policy.

Here are my reasons for keeping the playground open to parents dropping of in the mornings:

1. Give the teachers back their morning prep time — making the classrooms ready for students when the bell rings. In my opinion, I want them to have ample time to do their job.

2. More parent interaction, which then leads to more volunteers within the school, thus showing students how important parental participation is within their school.

3. Allowing parents on the playground for drop off is more eyes on the children. Trust me when I say I know who the parents are that “stick around” in the mornings, we would know if someone strange was approaching.

4. Giving the children a sense of protection. Whether I walk with my son to the doorway or not, he always knows that I’m there in case anything happens. Just leaving them behind a fence seems more like a prison.

5. The parents know other parents, they also know the kids — the teachers just do not know all the students. The parents are the extra set of eyes; they provide a sense of security for the kids.

I would rather see the district provide the “hardware” to keep our students safe: computer recognition software, security guards in the parking lots, safety glass in the main office, new security doors for school entrances, volunteer applications, background checks and ID cards to swipe when they enter the playground or school, etc.

The more responsibilities that are placed on teachers means less time focusing on classroom teaching. Let them fulfill their passion to be teachers and not police officers. Let them focus on instituting the Common Core Curriculum and make our schools and district the strongest in the state.

We have open enrollment in the Kyrene School District for parents to be able to choose whatever school they want their child to attend, if the principal chooses to keep the playground open and a parent is uncomfortable with the option, there are plenty of other schools.

Closing the playground just takes away parent involvement; do you know how many volunteer spots (book fairs, vision screenings, and field days) are filled just by talking to the parents at morning drop off?

Parents need to be involved in the schools and it is my belief that the playground is a good place to start, isn’t that where kids make their friendships?

This is an issue that I am passionate about, if you agree; please contact the Kyrene School District office.

• Leah Derewicz is a 15-year Ahwatukee Foothills resident. Reach her at mom@hanginwithmyboyz.me.

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