Local News

Public Use Of Wake School Grounds Has Catch

Posted March 3, 2004

— In Wake County, public schools do not equal public playgrounds. Taxpayers foot the bill for school facilities, but that does not mean they can use them.

Hank Dickson, of Holly Springs, was surprised to learn that he and his son are not allowed to play catch on school grounds.

According to the Wake County School Board's rules, the public must fill out the proper paperwork and pay a fee up to three weeks in advance.

"To me it makes sense that people should be able to use it without having to fill out the paperwork and spend extra money to lease it. It's public property, taxpayers paid for it," Dickson said.

The school district views the facilities as public property with rules and regulations restricting public access.

"I pay taxes. My taxes help support the governor's mansion. I will use the example I use with everyone else -- I don't get to use the governor's mansion whenever I want to," said Linda Willcox of Wake County Schools community services.

"There's a big difference between using the governor's mansion and using a baseball or soccer field or a swingset," Dickson said.

Willcox says the biggest reason for limited use is liablity. The rules are also designed to protect the taxpayers investments in the schools.

"Every public property has rules. We are not parks," Willcox said.

Willcox says the district welcomes public use, as long as the public plays by the rules. The district allows any individual or group to lease public facilities for a fee. Willcox says no one is out actively looking for people violating the rule.

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