As you may have noticed, the playgrounds at Seattle Public Schools remain locked during non-school hours even though playgrounds in Seattle parks and in neighboring cities have been open for months. Families have been using the city playgrounds responsibly, staying masked and respectful of those around them.
However, the city-run playgrounds have become very crowded because of the lack of school playgrounds. By keeping the school playgrounds locked, Seattle Public Schools has also cut off access to the blacktops and tracks for little ones to learn to ride bikes on or to run around.
In the Loyal Heights neighborhood, there are three playgrounds which, when fully utilized, see their fair share of traffic. Of those, the Loyal Heights Community Center playground has been closed for renovations for over two years. Salmon Bay Park and Webster Park remain open, but aren’t within walking distance for a large part of the neighborhood, and both of them get very crowded every afternoon. Salmon Bay Park is also scheduled to close in the fall for a remodeling project. Before SPS closed playgrounds because of the COVID-19 pandemic, local families also had several school playgrounds in the area to help ease the crowds at these two parks.
Studies have shown that the risk of transmitting COVID-19 outdoors, through surfaces, or on playground equipment is very low. With masking and social distancing rules in place, outdoor play is not only safe, it should be encouraged.
Robyn Reed’s family lives in the Bryant neighborhood. She says, “Bryant Elementary is our nearest basketball court and nearest flat paved no-car area, and we really miss being able to play on it.”
We have started a petition to urge the new SPS superintendent, Brent Jones, and the Seattle School Board to open our school playgrounds immediately when school and after-care are not in session. Please click here to sign the petition.
Opening school playgrounds will make all playgrounds less crowded, making play safer for everyone.
Editor’s note: Publication of an opinion piece does not mean Seattle’s Child or its staff endorses the views of the author.