"The importance of recess and playgrounds to the overall educational process is often overlooked in today's rush of day-to-day living. In fact, many schools across the nation are actually cutting back on the time allotted for playground activity. This, in my opinion, can only be done to the detriment of young, impressionable students. I feel that this is one of those lessons that we have learned well here at the St. Bernard School in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana," comments Principal Glen Breaux.
"Our new playground and the refurbishment of our older swing sets are prime examples of this. It was imperative that we, all of us: parents, teachers, and administrators alike, engage in some very creative thinking. We needed to accomplish what we have done within a very limited space and tight budget in a downtown urban environment."
"Having said that, I also must point out that this probably would not have been possible without the participation of the parents and grandparents of our students. Their willingness to contribute both time and dollars to our effort to educate their children goes a long way to the success of our programs."
"The result is called 'Urban Infill.' The first and foremost consideration is the safety and security of our children. This mandatorily must take precedence over having the appropriate playground structures. The ideal combination is to strike a balance of moderation of both," he continued.
To this end, the guiding forces have installed the new play structures where they would fit best within the space available. This meant incorporating the three new playground units in and around existing school buildings with an eye on the fact that building windows overlook them. From the principal's office to the classrooms, there is an open view for teachers and administrators, of the playgrounds and the children using them.
A sturdy, yet architecturally decorative wrought iron fence encloses the entire front of the property. This prevents overactive youngsters from accidentally darting out into the heavy traffic flow on Bridge Street (SR# 338) which is also the direct route to the bridge crossing of the Bayou Teche. Easy access to the nearby waters of the Teche from the school grounds was a concern and steps were taken here as well to assure student safety.
The St. Bernard school originally opened in the 1800s. The high school closed in 1966 and the elementary school shortly thereafter. In 1982 a group of citizens banded together and brought about its reopening as an elementary school only. At first, this included only grades one through six. Later, a junior high was opened. Because of current positive economic conditions, some in the community also have dreams of one day reinstituting a high school. At the present time, the elementary school continues to grow and, according to Principal Breaux, they still have room for some student body expansion.
"After all, we already have paid for this possibility because it would not require a lot of increased expenditure to meld additional students into the system already in place. We are strategically located between Baton Rouge and Lafayette. We have cases where new residents have elected to settle in here because one parent works in one city and the other is employed in the other."
"We have an enrolment population that averages out to be around 500 students. As of today, that figure was 499 and we serve approximately 350 different families. We have a total of 21 certified classroom teachers including several dedicated to teaching physical education and another three or four that serve in various capacities such as tutoring, teacher assistance, and similar situations as playground supervisors. We also have a group that we refer to as teacher assistance. These are non-certified people who form a very important adjunct to our programs. Overall, we have a total of about 55 employees."
"I also might point out that we have established a very popular after school day care center for our students who are in this predicament. It is a win-win situation for everyone!" continued the principal.
The formal playground is divided into three stand-alone segments. These units are manufactured by the Miracle Recreation Equipment Co. and all have approved safety bases for student protection.
"Parental involvement is magnificent here. Just last week we held our annual Science Symposium. This year's program involved health, the human body, and what makes it function. How does everything interrelate and interact with everything else? There were walk-through replicas of various vital organs, interactive displays, and the like. To many of the students, this was simply an educational extension of their playground experiences. It is an annual event that is conceived, implemented, funded, and executed by the parents themselves," said Breaux.
"Overall, I would say that collectively we, the parents, grandparents, and faculty, have done an outstanding job in meeting the recreational and playground needs of our student body," commented Glenn Breaux.