MDE News

Students, Communities Provided Access to School Facilities for Recreation

by Apr 03, 2014

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release: April 3, 2014

Students, Communities Provided Access to School Facilities for Recreation

JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) in collaboration with the Safe Routes to School National Partnership in Mississippi will offer expanded resources for implementing shared use agreements. The National Partnership will provide extensive content expertise and resources to further support Mississippi’s efforts to provide opportunities for children to be active before and after school hours.

During the 2012 legislative session, the Mississippi Legislature passed legislation to strongly encourage the use of shared use agreements that allow individuals an opportunity to use school facilities during non-school hours. According to Mikaela Randolph, shared use campaign manager, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, Mississippi has become a leader in the country for shared use agreements by passing this legislation to clarify liability.

“Our team is eager to add resources and expertise to assist Mississippi schools and faith-based communities in implementing these agreements. In my role, I have worked with large and small districts and communities to implement these agreements, so there aren’t too many questions we haven’t faced and together we can move the process forward and get kids moving,” she said.

Youth in neighborhoods with numerous recreational facilities are 26 percent more likely to be active 5 days a week than those in areas without facilities. A shared use agreement opens facilities through agreements between public schools and individual community members, community groups or public agencies, defining the roles and responsibilities of both the school and the user.

The MDE, in collaboration with the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and the Mississippi State Department of Health, and other state agencies and organizations, will be conducting presentations at state conferences, sharing a comprehensive toolkit (http://www.mde.k12.ms.us/healthy-schools) and providing technical assistance to local school districts to support the adoption of shared use policies that allow for the expanded use of school facilities and equipment. 

As part of its ongoing priorities, the MDE has demonstrated a commitment to the implementation of quality school health and safety programs that provide opportunities for student success.  Shane McNeill, director of the Office of Safe and Orderly Schools at MDE, said: “Our work with shared use agreements is another strategy to support all students being afforded the opportunity to be physically active through the efficient and effective use of existing school facilities and equipment. Studies show that active kids do better and this collaborative effort is designed to ensure that children are safe, fit, healthy and ready to succeed in the classroom and beyond.”   

 Many partners are coming together in Mississippi to open up public spaces to children and families for recreation and play, including the NAACP and the American Heart Association. Dr. Cedrick Gray, Jackson Public School District superintendent said he “is appreciative of the collaborative effort because safety and security of our students is the highest priority at all times; that includes before, during and after school hours.  We appreciate every effort to maintain safe spaces for our students and families to enjoy.”

Jay Thompson, Mississippi’s State Advocacy Organizer for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership describes the effort as “a collective process which is building momentum.  Through a strong coalition, we’ve worked to provide children and adults with safe and convenient opportunities to increase physical activities throughout the state by advancing policies that promote shared use agreements. It’s a rewarding feeling knowing that as a result of our community involvement, Mississippians from all walks of life have access to play spaces, gymnasiums, swimming pools, walking tracks, aerobic activities and many other avenues that serve as catalyst to improve their health and wellness.“

For more information and assistance contact Shane McNeill at psmcneill@mde.k12.ms.us or Jay Thompson at jay@saferoutespartnership.org .

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Mississippi Department of Education     P.O. Box 771     Jackson, MS 39205-0771     General Information: 601-359-3513

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