On Strawberry Milk and Playground Safety

posted Wednesday November 12th, 2008


Word around school this week is that Sophie’s been swiping other kids’ drinks at lunch. She drains her juice box and nabs someone else’s drink, particularly if it’s strawberry milk. I stuck 35 cents in this morning, so she could get her own, which she thoroughly enjoyed.

I didn’t mean to be in the cafeteria during her lunch hour, but Sophie spotted me at school this morning so I promised to reappear at lunch — then hustled through Mrs. Z’s Xeroxing (man, I better not quit my day job — the copy machine and I DO NOT get along) and made it over for most of the kindergarten lunch hour.

Arrgh. I’d heard all about kindergarten lunch — it’s legendary — and most recently, both my mother and Sophie’s occupational therapist had spent time in the cafeteria, observing.

What a freaking mess. I know the idea is to let the kids blow off steam during the lunch hour (um, it’s hardly an hour — 30 minutes from start to finish, including time on the playground) but it’s ridiculously out of control in that cacophonous, smelly, linolium-lined lunch room. I didn’t see one kid finish his/her lunch. Probably a good thing, considering what they were serving — something that passed for a BBQ rib sandwich. I had to ask a kid what it was.

Sophie brings her lunch, mostly so I can put stuff in that she’s able to eat easily and quickly. It was a liquid lunch for her today (probably every day); I was lucky she consumed half a mini-quiche. The raisins went untouched and the cheese/crackers were just played with.

And Sophie stays in the lunch room almost the whole time; I was blown back against the wall when someone blew a whistle and most of the kids cleared out to the playground. Before the half hour was over, I’d clapped my hands over my eyes at least twice. (It is true that I scare easily.)

I braced myself for the playground, having been warned about the horrendous ratio — every kindergartener in the school versus one “duty” (please, someone, come up with a better term!). The woman walked around the playground, looking hard and blowing her whistle; but lacking eyes in the back of her head, I just don’t see how she (or any one person) can adequately watch all those kids.

Last week when my mom was there, a little girl wet her pants. Today a kid fell and skinned her hand; she didn’t know what to do. Neither did I.

As I’ve written before (I’m almost sure I’ve covered this already in some depth) there is no law — state or federal — regarding playground ratios at public schools. The ratio at the aftercare program at our school is 12 kindergarteners to one adult. In the classroom it’s as high as 23 (maybe higher) and outside, apparently a 1 to 90 (or so) ratio is cool.

The duty has a walkie talkie, the principal told me, the first time I complained. Anyhow, she said, the school’s not violating the law.

Yeah, I replied. Because there is no law.

I’m holding off while I formulate my second complaint. I need more ammo. And, yeah, less snark.

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4 Responses to “On Strawberry Milk and Playground Safety”

  1. I’m still completely flabbergasted by the playground situation. Just because there isn’t a law doesn’t mean they can’t use common sense! Sheesh! And people complain about too much regulation. Obviously regulation is needed since people can’t make basic safety decisions!

  2. “duty”. hmmm.

    I know of this “duty” of whom you speak. I agree, one person is not sufficient. And the lunch room is a nightmare. Loud, crazy. No one can finish their lunch before they’re told to pretty much get out.

    Not a good thing.

  3. I have volunteered at lunch time at school. I agree, I think it is horrible. It is so loud and the food is gross. I also don’t like how the kids rush thru lunch, if at all, so they can go play. Others feel the need to get out when the mass exit the room. I have sat with my youngest, who is in 1st grade, and I feel she is rushed to get out. Some of the staff that have to do the 3o min lunch only get to eat their lunch and get their break when the kids clear out. Hence – they push them to get it done and get out. You figure a good portion of those kids don’t even have the 30 min because they are standing in line to get their food and or milk. I don’t know how to fix it but it does need to be fixed.

  4. I know you think you can’t write poetry (and maybe you don’t even want to) but I think your writing is very poetic. Just your headlines. I love reading the headline and how you tie it all together. Must be the journalist in you. “On strawberry milk and playground safety” it nearly sings off the page.

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