I am surprised and disappointed that Mr. Polansky of the Road Runners Club was surprised and disappointed that the Plainview Old Bethpage School Board finally decided to act in the best interests of the children of this district and to re-declare and enforce an existing prohibition which limits use of the POB track during school hours and activities. Apparently, people in this community do not know or understand what the responsibilities of the school board entail. They are charged by the State of New York with providing a safe and secure learning environment for all the students in this school district. According to New York State School Law Section 16.52, it is unlawful to loiter on school grounds without written permission, unless the person is a parent or legal guardian of a student in regular attendance. In his recent letter to the editor of the Plainvew Herald, Mr. Polansky states that there was no previous warning. I believe several years of: "For the protection of our children, these facilities are closed to the public during school hours", a sign which is posted at the entrance to the parking lot and the track, and several years of the administrators handing out flyers and asking people not to use the track during school to be substantial notice. It is a fact that people in this community have ignored these signs and requests, and it was about time that the school board did what they should have done five years ago and physically closed the facilities.
The last time I looked, POB Middle School was just that, a school. Any person who is not on campus for school business is trespassing. Just because we pay taxes does not make the facility a public place. You can't walk into town hall and take over a room, you can't park anywhere you want at Nassau Community College and use their facilities, you can't use the local fire department facilities, you can't go on the beach after certain hours and you can't use school facilities just because you want to! Paying taxes does not give the payer unlimited access to facilities. The 'I pay taxes' line does not work here. The school board is generous in allowing the community to use the facilities when they are not being used by the children for whom they exist. The track is not there for the community, it is there for the children of the school district. It is a perk for the community that it is available at all.
Mr. Polansky says that to the best of his knowledge, "there has never been any kind of incident whatsoever involving a runner or walker at the track in any way posing a threat to one of the youngsters at the middle school." Well, Mr. Polansky should ask first before writing letters to the editor of the local newspaper, because there have been many. Numerous times the children have not been able to use their classroom, the track, because there are too many people on the track to have time to get them off so that the children can use their facility. Teachers have approached people using the track and asked them to please leave so that the children can use the track. In some cases, people have left, in many they have not only ignored the teachers but have verbally harassed the teachers as well as the students. The teachers should not have to spend valuable class time getting people who do not belong on the track, off the track. They have classes to conduct. When the classes have used the track and the community has refused to leave, children have been yelled at, cursed, shoved and run at by the people using the track. Our children have even been exposed to a flasher in this area that has clear visibility. Our children are where they are supposed to be, doing what they are supposed to do. The conduct of select members of the community is totally unacceptable and has been for many years. What examples they are for the youth of our community. Just two weeks before this decision was made, there was a woman who pulled up next to the track in her car, put her walkman on, and proceeded to run into the children using the track. Another time, three women walking the track with their baby carriages were politely asked to vacate the track as the class was competitively running the quarter mile. These three women continued to walk the track three more times before leaving, causing the children who were supposed to be there to run around them. Not only did they have no respect for the teacher and the class but they apparently could care less about the safety of their own children and the possibility of an accident. Numerous times, children walking to and from school have nearly been run over by people driving their cars trying to get to or from the track. These same people honk their horns and yell at the children, who are where they are supposed to be because it is inconvenient for them to have to wait.
The track is a part of the school whether it is being used or not. It is the duty of the school board and the administration to provide a safe educational environment for every student in this district. For at least the last five years, this has not been the situation. It is after much pleading and begging from the parents of this district to do something about the situation that the school board has finally acted. Mr. Polansky's runners and walkers are not students, they are not entitled to the use of the track during school hours and activities. It is too bad that Mr. Polansky does not feel about the safety of our students as much as he does about the runners and walkers. The community would like a safe and well traveled area in which to walk during school hours. There is a terrific place to do this, it is called the Broadway Mall.
I am sure that the school board will continue to act in the best interest of the children of this district and keep the track closed during school hours and activities.