Let Me In! Opening School Grounds For Recreational Use On Weekends

It’s all too common to hear about children and teens who have to jump over fences and sneak onto school grounds during weekends just so they can play on the swings or shoot some hoops. However, a new law in California, Assembly Bill 346, if passed this year, would expand joint-use of school facilities to increase opportunities for physical activity, and thus open up school playgrounds for recreational use on weekends. Here, The kNOw writers share their opinions and personal experiences with this issue.

A Good Alternative
For the past five years, I’ve lived in between two schools. Sometimes I’ve passed by witnessing little kids trying to get into the schools on the weekends. They come prepped with playground balls, volleyball nets, and Frisbees. A lot of them even come with their parents. They almost always have to help each other over the fence or squeeze themselves through it. I’ve had to do this a few times, circling around the school, looking for an opening. It’s irritating that I don’t live near any parks and all the places I could play at are locked.

I do think that schools should open their playgrounds on weekends. Many families and individuals don’t have the means to travel all the way to a park. It would be a good alternative to kids staying inside all day.

The only possible problem I see is that some people may abuse that right and vandalize the schools. It happens already, but an open school would make it that much easier. There should be security guards, school staff or parent volunteers to watch the schools on the weekends while they’re open.
-Jaleesa, 19


Dangerous Streets
Schools should open their courts and playgrounds on the weekends. It would take a lot of kids off the streets. It’s sad to walk around parts of Fresno and see crosses or memorials with the names of kids on them because they got hit by a car, trying to get a ball or something. That could have been avoided if they would have been playing at a school and not by a street. So I hope we can open our school playgrounds on weekends and let kids have a playful childhood. I know I didn’t have one, but I hope other kids can.
-“Omar”, 18


You Know It’s A Problem When…
Not permitted to have fun? What’s the point of prohibiting children from playing on the playgrounds at schools? You know it becomes a problem when kids have to break into their own school just to play on the swing. I understand vandalism can happen, but what if there were responsible adults willing to supervise the activities? Maybe there could be adults on an organized weekend schedule. Opening up school playgrounds on weekends would create a better environment for kids to be in and a better relationship between adults and children.
-Victoria, 16


Sneaking In To Play Ball
I believe schools should be open on the weekend for public recreational use. It is lonely to see schools empty on the weekend when it could be full of happy neighbors doing activities and playing sports together. With schools open, teens can have access to sports equipment and just have a place to hang out where they can stay away from trouble.

Growing up with limited resources and a lack of space to do activities, I relied on school grounds. I remember I did everything at my elementary school. Played sports, met up with friends, hung out, or even went there to read.

But when I started going to middle school, I wasn’t able to do much anymore. The gates were always closed on the weekends. My friends and I had to hop over the fence. There we would set up our volleyball net on the poles and play. One time, one of the office workers threatened to call the police on us if we didn’t leave. I stood my ground and refused to leave. My friends and I weren’t causing any trouble. We were just playing volleyball. I told her the school is open to the public and shouldn’t be off limits. She told us that the school is only open to the public when the gates are open. Now it’s locked, and we need to leave.

I was upset, but I left anyways. It’s disturbing when I get into trouble for dumb reasons. From that day on, I had to sneak into schools to play volleyball, and only when there were no workers there.
-Dasen, 17


Keep Kids Out Of Trouble
I have never had to sneak into a school playground to play because growing up, I was a person who stayed home and did homework or read. But I do believe that schools should open their playgrounds on the weekend because I think it could help decrease youth violence. It might not make a huge difference right away but it’s a start. Schools should open the playgrounds and courts cause that’s always when youth get into most trouble. Most don’t have anything to do on the weekends.

I know schools might worry about graffiti on the walls or vandalism on the playground, but that’s why there should be responsible adults to supervise. If adults want youth to stop sneaking into playgrounds and courts, and if they want youth to be safe, healthy and out of trouble, then open the playgrounds!

Maybe this could start out for a few weekends to see how it goes. If it goes well, then schools should keep the playgrounds open for good.
-Chanda, 20


Why Can’t We Just Share?
I believe schools should open their gates to the community on weekends. Kids shouldn’t have to hop over high fences to shoot some hoops. Kids shouldn’t have to play in busy, dangerous streets when there is a nice field right across the street. Growing up near schools with playgrounds, I’ve always hopped fences. When I was little, my whole family would walk to my elementary school and go on the swings or play ball. Even today, I still go onto school grounds to play ball.

Not too long ago, I took my little nieces to a nearby elementary school. We played on the slides. After a while, a security guard pulled up and told us to leave. He said that we set off the alarm, but all we did was play on the slide. I didn’t know how we could have set off the alarm, but we just ended up leaving because he wanted us to leave.

It was easy to get into that playground because there was only a 3 feet brick wall. But when we went back the next time, the school extended the brick wall by adding a little fence on top. It’s sad to see how much the school is fighting to keep us out. Why can’t we just share?
-Angelina, 16

The kNOw Youth Media
The kNOw works to support and equip young people with the journalism and advocacy skills they need to tell their stories and the stories of their communities.

In 2006, over 25 youth began participating in weekly after-school writing workshops where they congregated in the hallway of a two-story building in West Fresno and learned the essentials of creating media and telling their stories. The group evolved over the next five years and is now proudly recognized as The kNOw Youth Media.

Through our program, we create opportunities for our youth participants, who in turn create long-term positive change in their communities. Our approach weaves youth development and youth media innovation to produce our biannual youth publication, multimedia projects, and community forums.

The kNOw began as a project of New America Media, which was the country’s first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2000 ethnic news organizations. In 2018 The kNOw became a project of Youth Leadership Institute.

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