The Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council unanimously voted in favor of granting $1,500 to the Aldama Elementary School PTA to help fund Playworks, a non-profit program that creates structured playtime for students.
Silvia Vargas, secretary of the Aldama PTA, explained that Playworks is valuable because it creates structured activities during recess and after-lunch playtime.
"If there was no Playworks, there would be no structured play," Vargas said.
Playworks consists of one full time coach, whose job it is build structured activities around playtime and to train older students to help facilitate that play.
Vargas said the benefits of the program go well beyond providing students daily exercise.
By putting older students in the role of facilitators, Vargas said, Playworks helps reduce bullying, increases socializing among students in different grade-levels and nurtures leadership skills.
However, the progam isn't cheap. Playworks costs a total of $54,000 per-year to run at a single school, half of which Aldama must cover through almost constant fund-raising.
"$27,000 in a low income community is not easy to raise," Vargas said "We've been working at it all year round, but it's worth it."
Monica Alacaraz, president of the HHPNC, recused herself from the discussion and vote on the funding motion, as she is also president of the Aldama PTA.
The original version of this story reported that Aldama Elemtnary did not offer gym class. That's incorrect; Alcaraz elaborated.
"Before Playworks, playtime was structured this way; the students played during recess and lunch. During this time supervision staff watched the children but they did not lead games. The classes or grades may have been assigned areas to play, but again the kids lead their own games. Teachers could take children out to play outside of recces and lunch, but it was at their own discretion. We did not have structured sports after school. So game time was structured differently then it is today with Playworks."