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Unlocking the Gates at Arizona Schools


Editor’s Note: This success story comes courtesy of Voices for Healthy Kids.

Health and learning are integrally linked. Kids who are physically active learn better and schools play a critical link in community-wide efforts to promote life-long health through shared used agreements that help schools provide access to their playgrounds and gyms. School districts can minimize their liability risks by maintaining their property, carrying insurance, requiring community groups to have insurance and entering into formal shared use agreements.

Arizona SB 1336, sponsored by Senator Kelli Ward, is one example of how states can help schools unlock the gates and open up their facilities to the community if they allow either leased or uncompensated use of public school grounds.

Nicole Olmstead, government relations director for the American Heart Association in Arizona, provided testimony at the statehouse: “Safe places for children and adults to be physically active are an important piece of the fight against the obesity epidemic. While we realize that requiring schools to open their grounds is not realistic, nor reasonable, removing one of the primary barriers to opening up school grounds, especially those that are paid for through taxpayer dollars and property taxes, is an important first step.”

Giving families safe places to be active creates thriving communities. All communities can prosper with nearby playgrounds, parks and safe streets to walk or bike. Many people don't have easy access to safe parks or recreational facilities and people who have parks or recreational facilities nearby exercise 38 percent more than those who do not have easy access. When SB 1336 passed nearly unanimously, Arizona showed simple changes can make a big difference in the lives of their children and families.