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Streetsboro officials ponder limiting number of adults in schools for parties

by Mike Lesko | reporter Published: February 27, 2013 12:00 AM

Streetsboro -- Large numbers of adults in Streetsboro school buildings during the school day for parties and other activities may not be the best idea, according to Kevin Grimm, Streetsboro fire lieutenant and School Board member.

"I believe it is counter-productive to preach safety and security, and then allow a large amount of parents, grandparents, etc., into the building for a party," Grimm said.

Grimm said in the event of a shooting, there would be that many more people to protect.

"Large influxes of people in the school buildings could cause added 'chaos' in the event of an emergency," he said. "We need to seriously look at this problem sooner rather than later."

Along with the "what ifs" of having unknown adults in a school building, Grimm said "just the sheer amount of people in the building will cause chaos should an emergency occur."

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Grimm said the number of adults allowed in school buildings is determined only by the occupancy permits established by the city's building department.

The Board of Education asked Superintendent Dr. Tim Calfee to seek input from the elementary school principals whether it's necessary to invite large numbers of adults in the buildings during the school day for parties and other activities.

Parties to celebrate Halloween, Christmas and Valentine's Day are commonplace among younger students at Wait Primary, Campus Elementary and Henry Defer Intermediate schools, officials said, but they typically do not take place at Streetsboro Middle School and Streetsboro High School.

"We don't have all the birthday and Valentine's Day parties," Streetsboro Middle School Principal Steve Hatch said. "We usually don't have parents and grandparents coming in."

The Streetsboro Board of Education has taken no official action, and there is currently no policy change in front of the Board.

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Wait Primary School Principal Jon Natko said some school districts limit the number of parents in a school to 3-4 per party and said policy limiting the number of adults could be implemented in Streetsboro.

"I would be surprised if Streetsboro doesn't do something similar to that in the near future," Natko said. "I think it is appropriate."

At recent Valentine's Day parties at Wait, Natko said one classroom had 23 adults and another had 13 adults.

Grimm said he believes there are better ways "to allow our children to learn about and celebrate the various holidays without bringing in every available family member."

Natko said the key is figuring out how to engage adults in different activities so there aren't so many people showing up at one time during the school day.

"There are other ways that parents can support their children's learning," Natko said.

Natko said parents can set up times in advance to read aloud to the class, talk about their jobs during a career day or help out on field trips.

Tracy Campbell, Streetsboro Community PTA president, said her group started working with school administrators in the late fall to control the number of adults in the buildings because the PTA is aware that large numbers of adults in the schools is a safety concern. However, she also stressed parents want to be involved in their children's activities.

"We're trying to figure out what is the best avenue to do that," Campbell said.

Campbell said at first she wasn't sure if it was a good idea to decrease the amount of parents at children's parties.

"We don't want to tell people they aren't welcome," Campbell said. "But when we looked at it, with all the people there, it is definitely a safety concern. If we are limited [regarding the number of adults in the classroom], we hope we will have other chances to have meaningful opportunities in buildings."

Kelly Butler, Streetsboro Community PTA vice president, said she also hopes there is a middle ground.

"I hear what they're saying about safety concerns. I understand about the congestion in the schools," Butler said. "But I hate not making people feel welcome at school. People want to take part in the parties."

Butler said every parent would like to attend the Halloween, Christmas and Valentine's Day parties if they could.

"Being involved in the PTA, we are responsible for organizing the room parents that put together the parties," Butler said. "I really enjoy going to those parties. We get to meet our children's friends in a school environment. You would be surprised at how well-attended those parties are."

If parties are not able to accommodate a large number of relatives in the future, Butler said she hopes there are other ways to experience the schools.

"Seeing their child in a school environment is really important to parents. After-school events are not the same. But if they developed other opportunities during the day, most parents would understand."

Campbell said she expects the Board of Education will eventually tighten up the rules regulating the number of adults in schools, but she said having other opportunities -- like reading books aloud to classes -- is "a good compromise."

Campbell said if new rules are put in place, the PTA is "committed to working with the schools to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible and to work with parents to make sure they're informed. If it occurs, our hope is the information will be clearly communicated with parents at the beginning of that particular school year," Campbell said.

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9439

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