Schools across the state have long served as hubs of activity, connecting families and creating a powerful sense of community pride for Oklahomans. Cafeterias where children gather during the day to nourish their bodies transformed into meeting spaces for little league sign up night for thousands of aspiring student athletes. Playgrounds, and soccer fields, tennis courts and high school tracks transformed from PE classrooms by day to spaces where families could play and be active together by night. And classrooms used to teach reading, writing and arithmetic during the day kept their lights on and doors unlocked after school to serve as meeting spaces for community groups like The Boy Scouts, Campfire and Girl Scouts to teach critical life and leadership skills to Oklahoma’s future leaders.
Schools truly add value to the community beyond educating Oklahoma’s children and that value has helped shape Oklahoma’s overall well being–including the health of our citizens since statehood.
However, faced with strained budgets, schools have begun to lock their doors and turn off their lights at nights and on the weekend–fearful the expense of potential lawsuits and property damage will cripple their ability to perform their most basic and vital function–educating every Oklahoma child.
Understanding the important value and sense of community schools bring to Oklahoma towns and the important role they play in helping shape a healthier Oklahoma, The Oklahoma Fit Kids Coalition and the American Heart Association joined forces in the fall of 2011 to work on the Oklahoma Shared Use Project with the goal of turning Oklahoma schools into community hubs once again.
Together with advocates from across the state, and with the help and support of Governor Mary Fallin, OK Fit Kids and the American Heart Association embarked on a journey to change state laws regarding liability for Oklahoma schools, eliminating the fear and removing legal barriers for schools who agree to keep their doors open and their lights on for Oklahomans to use for recreational purposes.
Senate Bill 1882, authored by Senator Greg Treat of Edmond and Representative Fred Jordan of Tulsa, became one of the first bills signed into law in the 2012 legislative session and goes into effect November 1.
The facts surrounding Oklahoma’s health drive the urgency of the implementation of the Shared Use Project–raising awareness about the law and how it can be a roadmap to creating healthier and more active communities across our state.
- Oklahoma Ranks 48th in overall health,
- One in three Oklahoma children are overweight or obese, and
- Oklahomans are among the least physically active in the country.
And, statistics tell us people with access to recreation facilities exercise 38 percent more than people without similar access. Unfortunately, when schools lock their doors and turn their lights out in makes it harder for Oklahomans wanting to make the choice to be active to actually do so. The Shared Use Project will teach Oklahomans how to encourage schools to keep their doors open and their lights on to the community as sources of recreation and activity. Together we can and we will help shape a healthier Oklahoma for generations to come.