Governor Fallin Proposes Plan To Open School Exercise Facilities To The Public

Monday, February 6th 2012, 10:43 pm
By: Dana Hertneky

Governor Mary Fallin wrapped up her State of the State speech on Monday by talking about improving our health. One of the ways she proposes to do this is by opening up school facilities to the public.

2/6/2012 Related Story: Governor Fallin Proposes Tax Cuts, Improvements To Bridges, Capitol Building

Like most schools across Oklahoma, in Bethany, once school is out the playground, track, and other exercise facilities are off limits.

"We do secure our facilities after the school day is over with," said Superintendent Kent Shellenberger. "One of the main reasons is for the liability reasons that are involved."

That's exactly why the Governor is proposing a minor change to the state's tort claim act that would release schools from liability if someone were to get hurt while working out on their property.

"To just send a signal to schools that you will be protected if you keep your lights on and your doors open after school," said Amber England with the Fit Kids Coalition, who is leading the effort.

That would allow schools to enter into agreements with community groups who may offer exercise classes or provide supervision on certain nights using school facilities.

It's a game plan Bethany Superintendent Kent Shellenberger said he would support, especially if it would lead to a spike in activity for students and community members.

"We ask the taxpayers to help us out with bond issues and different initiatives, so sure the buildings are owned by the taxpayers and owned by the community. We just have to be prudent in how they're being used and the monitoring process," said Shellenberger.

The folks at the Fit Kids coalition say the costs of such programs would be minimal because schools would be partnering with community groups.

Oklahoma ranks almost last in the nation for overall health.