“Clearly this is a problem,” Senator Jeff Klein said. “And I don’t believe anyone is taking this seriously.”
Klein first conducted a survey five years ago that identified 100 schools with TCUs, housing an estimated 14,000 students. Though they were designed as mobile units, the temporary education facilities largely remain on site years later.
With childhood obesity on the rise, and 43% of elementary school students either overweight or obese, Klein added it’s essential to youth’s health to remove the TCUs and provide necessary recreation space at schools.
“A century of psychology testifies to the essential role of outdoor play to the social and emotional development of our children,” Klein said. “Students need to be able to stretch both their minds and their legs in pursuit of a complete education.”
Integrated into the report were two surveys that analyzed data from 72 local elementary schools. Results show that 32% of schools lacked a schoolyard, 40% lacked a playground, 78% didn’t have an athletic field and 31% weren’t within a five-minute walk of a playground.
“In light of the obesity epidemic which is most pronounced in low income and minority communities, DOE needs to re-evaluate its priorities and provide proper over-sight so that we can give all our children the education they deserve,” Klein commented.
The report further showed that of the schools surveyed with less than a couple of diversified play options, on average, 71% of the student body was African American or Latino.
“Adequate playground space is essential to a good education and a healthy community,” Senator Jose Serrano said. “The district I cover suffers from high levels of obesity. In this sense, playgrounds are a form of preventive healthcare, helping to keep our kids fit before problems develop later in life.”
In order to help combat this growing problem, Klein is asking that future City capital budgets include monies to afford the installation and upgrade of outdoor play facilities at high-need sites.
He also proposed legislation that would require the New York State Education Department to prove the availability, size and condition of all outdoor physical activity facilities at each New York public school to the governor and state legislature.
Klein concluded, “There’s simply no excuse for us to have inadequate play space for our young people.”