(Media release from Atrium Health Floyd):

Drive by Main Elementary school on a sunny day, and you’ll see a site that will likely make you smile – children, gleefully sliding down a bright red slide, swinging high into the air on a brand-new swing or crossing a not-so-high footbridge to get from one play area to another.

It wasn’t that long ago that recess for those Rome Wolf Cubs was limited to games of tag, ‘Simon Says” or “Red Rover,” if kids even play those games anymore, but a new partnership between Rome City Schools and Atrium Health Floyd helped change that.

Kurt Stuenkel, President and CEO of Atrium Health Floyd, said the idea for Atrium Health Floyd’s investment began almost a year ago after a conversation he had with Lou Byars, Superintendent of Rome City Schools. Byars related that a playground was not installed when the school off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard was originally constructed, and that state education funds don’t pay for playgrounds. Parents and communities must raise the money for playground equipment, which can take years to accomplish.

Kurt, who said he excelled at recess when he was in elementary school, said he couldn’t imagine a school not having a playground. Students need an opportunity to get outside and stretch their legs. Physical activity is important to children’s physical, emotional and mental health.

The playground is a part of a five-year financial commitment that establishes Atrium Health Floyd as the official health care provider for Rome City Schools. Main Elementary School parents and staff had been raising funds for a playground. The school partnership greatly accelerated the project.

Kurt said it troubled him that schools that have a vital Parent Teacher Organization could raise funds easily and have playgrounds, and Main Elementary could not. Mr. Byars decided to use his first year’s funds from Floyd to finish off the Main Elementary School project.

“You know, at one level some may think that this was not that consequential,” Kurt said. “Our contribution went for a playground. But we corrected an inequity, and an inequity in the ability to go out and play, of all things. It was a good day to see that we helped and to also see the smiles on the kids who were playing on the swings and using the slide and jungle gym.” 

After the ribbon cutting, Mr. Byars headed over to the slide and went down with a “Whee!”  The rest of the adults followed.

Partnering with local schools makes sense, Kurt said. It establishes trust between families and Atrium Health Floyd. And now from a child’s first day in school with school nurses, playground equipment, athletic trainers, a primary care clinic, and even vocational exposure and experience, we are making connections that will last a lifetime. We are helping to ensure that students are healthy, ready to learn and safe on the field, whether that’s on an elementary school playground or a competition stadium.

Byars said this new agreement is the continuation of a healthy partnership.

“We already had a great partnership with Floyd Medical Center, and now with Atrium Health Floyd, that relationship is growing,” he said. “This is one of many things we are going to be able to do through that partnership.”