An estimated 385,000 portable classrooms are in use at schools across the country, and that number is sure to grow, as school districts across the nation are dealing with overcrowding issues. Portable classrooms should be a temporary fix for overcrowding, but more often than not, they are becoming permanent fixtures on school campuses.
Portables should be only used as short-term fixes as they can lead to chronic problems, such as the following:
Experts say outdoor air should be supplied on a continuous basis when students and/or teachers are in the portable classroom to improve the ventilation. If students or teachers experience eye or respiratory irritation, neurologic symptoms or difficulty concentrating while in the portable classrooms, they should immediately reduce exposure and get medical help.
Poor lighting, extreme temperatures and noisy heating, and air conditioning can compromise the learning experience in portables. The structures often are placed in soggy fields or parking lots, near noise and vehicle exhaust.
Coaches may be more concerned with injuries, personnel problems, and opponents rather than the condition of their playing turf. However, this may be detrimental to their athletes. An acceptable playing field should be resilient, uniform, and wear-resistant. It should be soft enough to prevent cuts when players fall, yet firm enough to allow for good footing.
Recent reports show that as many as half of the serious knee and ankle injuries are related to poor field maintenance, such as:
Fields that are mowed regularly, fertilized properly, and watered on a timely basis tend to stand up to normal use.
If the field is hard due to poor soil conditions or even heavy use, you may want to aerate to help the problem. A hollow-spoon aerator will reduce soil compaction, increase water penetration, and promote grass recovery. For best results, you need to aerate fields when the soil is moist, not wet, for maximum penetration. After you complete the aeration, drag the field with a heavy mat to break up the soil and smooth the surface.
Wet conditions only add to the deterioration of turf on an athletic field. Coordinate watering practices with the scheduled use of the playing field to minimize problems. The field surface must be dry when the field is in use to prevent injuries. Therefore, when supplemental watering is needed, schedule it for at least 24 hours before the field will be used. As water is needed, wet the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches on a weekly basis. You can follow with some light watering as needed.
Renovation of athletic fields are necessary, especially for fields that are used quite a bit, to help reduce injuries. The renovation of an extensively used football field, for example, is an annual requirement. This would involve aeration, weed control, fertilization, and, in extreme cases, replanting. The first step in renovation is to correct the conditions that caused the field to deteriorate in the first place, such as poor drainage, weeds or excessive use.
Many athletic fields have bleachers, and they can pose serious safety risks if they are not properly taken care of. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says there were an estimated 22,100 bleacher-associated injuries treated in emergency rooms in 1999. Approximately 6,100 of these injuries were a result of the person falling from, or through, bleachers, onto the surface below. Approximately 4,910 of these falls involved children under the age of 15.
Millions of spectators watch sporting events from many types of bleachers each year. School administrators need to be aware of the following hazards:
The area underneath the bleachers can be dangerous as well. For this reason, it is important to completely block off the space underneath them. If your facility has larger rows of outdoor bleachers that cannot be closed off completely, you may want to consider having someone supervise the area to keep kids away.
You need to inspect the bleachers on a regular basis. The CSPC guidelines recommend you inspect bleachers no less than four times a year. Take a closer look at the amount and type of use the bleachers experience before creating an exact inspection schedule. Along with the regular inspections, each school should hire an engineer to conduct a full structural inspection at least once a year.
During an inspection, you should identify any structural damage that could make the bleachers unsafe. It often works well to create a checklist for inspections and then carry it out in a systematic manner.
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