Every school day elementary students across the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District shimmy on snow pants, glide on gloves and put on hats to brave the elements during recesses.
Be it snow, sleet or below zero temperatures, students go out to play. While many often come prepared, sometimes students are missing a glove or hat— which makes outside pay nearly impossible in the cold.
According to the 2013-14 KPBSD student and parent handbook, periods of prolonged outdoor activity — including recess, physical education, class walks, etc. will not occur when the temperature is minus 10 degrees or colder. The figure includes the wind chill factor. The district takes into consideration the medical needs of children with special conditions and who are recuperating from illness.
That means students are going out daily for at least 30 minutes and need to be prepared.
Gayle Koger, school nurse at K-Beach Elementary, said she can always use donations of warm gloves and hats.
“Whenever I start giving hats and gloves out,…. they don’t usually come back,” Koger said.
Koger said warm gear during winter recess is a must.
“They need to wear hats — that’s where a lot of your body heat is lost,” she said.
Another way to keep students warm and essentially healthy is to make sure they dressed properly and in layers.
“I saw a student last week wearing shorts,” she said.
It is also important to make sure outdoor gear is dried each day. Once snow pants and soggy gloves are taken off and shoved into student’s backpacks, it is unlikely the items will dry for the next day’s use.
Tammy Dudley, school nurse at Soldotna Elementary, often has little ones in her office before lunch in need of proper gear. Dudley, who has been the school nurse since 1995, said she receives yearly donations of knit hats, scarves and mittens from area organizations that understand the need to keep the students warm.
“There are so many awesome community members out there who keep me stocked,” she said.
One unexpected source of handmade hats comes from a group of men jailed at Wildwood Correctional Center minimum camp.
Shannon McCloud, assistant superintendent, said a group of 10 to 12 inmates took up the hobby of crocheting hats for those in need and keeping school nurses stocked up with warm headgear.
The group, many of who learned to crochet years ago, has a room filled with donated yarn, books and materials. They also make hats for the Relay for Life.
“This year (the men) have been working on puppy dog hats,” McCloud said.
She said some spend hours, sitting in front of the televisions crocheting hats.
Nurses across the district, including Dudley, are thankful for the effort of the inmates.
Dudley said other groups, such as Soldotna Elks Lodge , Soldotna Rotary Club, local churches and individuals, donate items to keep KPBSD students warm.
“It is an amazing community,” she said. “I am thoroughly thankful for the generosity.”
Sara J. Hardan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org