Novato closes playgrounds due to high injury rate

October 6, 2010 12:36:26 AM PDT
After spending a small fortune renovating playgrounds at three schools in Novato, kids are not being allowed to play on them until experts make some changes to keep children from getting hurt. Several kids took bad falls and school officials are trying to figure out why.

When 8-year-old Lucas Fortune fell off the new play structure at his Novato elementary school, it wasn't like his typical tumbles.

"It was different because I hurt it badder [sic] than when I usually fall off the play structure," said Lucas.

He broke his arm and it was his first broken bone. Lucas' mom, Serena Fortune, figured it was an unfortunate accident until she found out her child was not alone.

"The child who had dislocated her shoulder a couple of days before, and then the following day, another child his broke arm at the school," said Serena.

A total of six kids in Novato suffered broken bones after falling off new play structures at school in less than three weeks. The injuries prompted school officials to close down the playgrounds and call for a thorough inspection. They're considering three possibilities; the first one being that some of the features are too high.

"I looked at it and I go, 'that looks too high,' but I had trust in my board and everybody here that you guys know what you're doing," said parent Rob Conte to the school board.

The second possibility is that the new structures are just too popular and therefore are too crowded. And a third explanation came from the manufacturer and the insurance company.

"You cannot open new play structures without proper training or retraining of your yard supervisors," said executive director of facilities John Silvestrini.

Since they don't know exactly why this happened, they'll address most of the possibilities. They will lower the play structures, hope that popularity will soon taper off, and there is definitely going to be more staff training.

"We will do specifically the manufacturer's training, we will do the insurance carrier's training and our own training to ensure safety on our playgrounds," says Novato Superintendant Jan La Torre-Derby.

Once they finish lowering some sections of the structures and training the staff, they plan to reopen the playgrounds, and hopefully watch the kids have some safe fun.


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