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Storm: Losing more than the chance to study outside


By Janet Storm

Sunday, May 27, 2018

When I was in school, late May and early June were a long, dull hallway I had to trudge down to get to summer vacation. Most classrooms in my naive Michigan did not have air conditioning, so the steamy days at the end of the year were particularly unbearable. We sweaty and sullen students used to beg out teachers to conduct classes outside. 

Our pleas only worked occasionally, but when they did it was glorious. We would sit under shady trees, drinking in the sounds, smells and other sensations of early summer. Even on the warmest days, we were able to feel a breeze that made the lesson proffered bearable.

I am sure it was harder for our teachers to keep us focused and get through the necessary material, but being in an outdoor classroom was like a dream come true for my classmates and me. 

I wonder, is that a pleasure students are still able to experience?

Recently, the Pitt County Board of Education attended a workshop in which plans were outlined for secure corridors in all the county’s schools. The plan is to install the corridors in high schools first, then move on to all other unsecured campuses.

It’s a sensible move, of course, at a time when schools across the country are dealing with horrific and deadly violence. Most schools are considering other safety measures as well, from security cameras to armed officers and even metal detectors.

The decision is sensible yes, but heartbreaking. Maybe it seems silly, but I mourn the fact that such small joys as having a class outside may be slipping away. After all, what good are secure corridors if the students are out in the open air? 

Of course, it’s not an occasional class in the schoolyard that today’s students are really missing. It the feeling of security and safety that allowed such an opportunity to exist.The more we are forced to lock down schools, the fewer options teachers have to make the sort of fun, spontaneous decisions that lead to so many happy memories.

My favorite teacher in elementary school used to let us paint the classroom windows with different designs every month. It was magical. Yet, recently one of the candidates for Pitt County sheriff contended that most classroom windows ought to be bricked up because schools are “soft targets.”

Many schools already are fenced in and closed off. 

How have we come to this?

I cannot imagine what it is like for parents to send their children off to school these days. When I was young, the worst thing my mother had to worry about what one of her children misbehaving, These days, it seems, parents have to worry about their children coming home alive.

So safety superseeds sitting in the shade and feeling the breeze.

I understand. But my heart aches for students making that final trudge toward summer in a world where fear is what causes them to sweat.

Contact Janet Storm at jstorm@reflector.com or 252-329-9587.