Questions raised over school safety during gym class

Education Minister Costas Hambiaouris has received the final report on the circumstances surrounding the death of a 10-year-old student in Larnaca, but people are already raising questions about safety on school premises. 

Administrators visited the Alethriko elementary school in Larnaca district where they recorded any detail they could find that might help officials understand how Stavros Georgallis sustained a serious head injury during a Physical Education class (PE) last Friday.

The basketball court surface in Stavros’ school was made of concrete, which typically involves ready-mix asphalt concrete laid over a layer of compacted gravel.

According to reports, technical staff from the education ministry did not see any problem with outdoor basketball courts having an asphalt concrete surface.

Stavros was playing basketball at his school during gym class when he struck his head on the concrete floor

But even though the ball can bounce easily on concrete, this type of flooring is also one of the hardest surfaces and could be dangerous.

Stavros was playing basketball around 11am when he struck his head on the concrete floor, according to reports. His mother was summoned to the school and took her son to the Emergency Room at the Larnaca General Hospital, where the boy was discharged half an hour later.

An hour later, they went back to the ER a second time due to severe headaches but the mother says there were delays at Larnaca General until doctors determined the boy needed surgery due to internal bleeding. They decided to send the patient to Nicosia, but it was too late for Stavros who reportedly died on the way, a few hours after his initial injury.

It is not clear how long it took for the school to notify the mother, but it was suggested in media reports Friday that she was called without delay and she rushed to the school.

The report on the minister’s desk is expected to shed light on a number of issues, including whether any teachers were trained properly to handle the incident as well as whether new protocols are needed in such emergencies, including during PE courses.

The head of the Cyprus Greek Teachers Association (POED), Filios Fylaktou, says school administrations do not know what are the criteria and standards for basketball courts, according to daily Phileleftheros. As a result, school officials may not be in a position to know whether they need to request any changes.

Knews understands that asphalt concrete is common for outdoor basketball courts in Cyprus and abroad, where surfaces in community parks and schools have to withstand harsh weather conditions. But asphalt can also lead to injuries including cuts, scrapes, bruises and worse.

While hardwood is typically used in indoor courts, multipurpose or advanced flooring provides a safer environment with the use of smooth slab of concrete and softer materials on top or even rubber layers between concrete and plastic surfaces.

Softer surfaces are already required in public kindergartens but it is not clear whether similar designs had been considered specifically for outdoor basketball courts.

source: Knews