Streetsboro -- School officials say it's great when elementary students' parents attend class parties, but there needs to be a limit because sometimes the rooms can get a little crowded.
School leaders proposed a plan allowing every elementary student to have one adult attend one party per school year, Superintendent Michael Daulbaugh said.
Typically, schools have three large parties celebrating Halloween, Christmas and Valentine's Day, plus usually one or two other community-type events during the school year, he said.
"The intent is not to keep parents from coming to parties," Daulbaugh said. "This is an attempt to make these parties a little more reasonable and perhaps a bit safer for our students, staff and parents."
Daulbaugh proposed the plan at the Aug. 8 Streetsboro Board of Education meeting, but no official action has been taken by the Board.
The overcrowding situation was discussed after PTA members met last winter with former Wait Primary School Principal Jon Natko, former Henry Defer Intermediate School Principal Lisa Bontempo and Campus Elementary School Principal Kristen Cottrell, then met a second time Aug. 8 with Cottrell, new Henry Defer Intermediate School Principal Bill Basel and new Wait Principal Amy Cruse.
Streetsboro Community PTA President Tracy Campbell said the plan was developed by the district.
"The PTA didn't go to the school district and ask for this change. This is a district initiative," Campbell said. "We're just trying to make the transition easier, although we stand by the district. It is a big change, and wanted to make sure it is clearly communicated.
"Our role is to work with the principals so we can offer alternatives to parents who may be upset. If you can't attend the party, we understand you may be frustrated, but you'll be able to attend other school events, and there will be many other opportunities to be involved in. All volunteer opportunities will be posted on the [district] website as they come up."
Daulbaugh said the problem came to light last school year.
"At any given party, we can have up to 15-20 parents in a room along with 20-25 students and a teacher," Daulbaugh said. "What if we had an emergency in that building? What if a fire started? What if somebody had a heart attack or a medical emergency and we had to get safety forces into our building quickly?"
Daulbaugh showed photos of a typical gathering, a kindergarten class' Valentine's Day party at Wait last school year in which there were numerous cars, so many that some vehicles were parked where they were not supposed to be.
"These pictures don't do it justice," he said. "We'd have a hard time getting a large ladder truck into the parking lot. That creates a problem. From a principal's perspective, if we ever had to have a lockdown, that creates an issue."
Daulbaugh said one PTA parent suggested that some parents may feel like they need to come to every party because that's what everyone does.
"Perhaps by limiting the number [of adults], perhaps we'll let some folks off the hook, and they won't have to take off work to come," he said.
The method of determining which parents would attend goes like this:
Notes would be sent home so adults can identify which party they want to attend, Daulbaugh said. He said typically, the Halloween party is their favorite. So a lottery system would be created, and about eight parents will be chosen for that party. The ones that aren't selected would get their second choice.
"The bugs have not been worked out, and we are sure we'll encounter some bugs," Daulbaugh said. "There may be some who don't like this plan, but our intentions are good."
Daulbaugh said he wants to get the School Board's feedback and approval.
"One important thing to remember is, the parties are for the kids and for them to have a good time and enjoy their time in school," said School Board President Denise Baba. "I have been in classrooms [for parties] when there have been almost as many parents as students. It does make it challenging to move around."
Baba urged the School Board to come to a happy medium, balancing the desire of parents and relatives to come to parties with maintaining safe environments in the school buildings.
School Board Vice President Andrew Lesak asked what would happen if the parents are divorced.
Daulbaugh said that is something that would have to be worked out.
"Maybe they can't come in during one of the three parties, but maybe they can come in for a class project," Daulbaugh said. "The goal is managing the numbers."
School Board member Kevin Grimm called it "a workable solution."
Lesak agreed, adding, "Parents who want the opportunity to get into their child's class should get the chance."
"I don't think you're ever going to make everybody happy," School Board member Brian Violi said. "But we always have to look out for what's best for the kids."
School Board member John Kelly called the plan "a work in progress."
"If it doesn't work the first year, we can meet with the PTA to find out how we can make it better," Kelly said. "It's a start. I'm all for it."
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