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Amherst schools prohibiting sledding for student safety

Extremely cold temperatures have hardened the snow that fell Saturday and made sledding more treacherous, as evidenced by two children who were hurt when they lost control of their sleds outside the schools Tuesday, the last day of winter vacation.

“Conditions are too slippery,” said Ronald Bohonowicz, facilities director for the town and schools. “Kids can’t go sledding until the conditions change.”

Bohonowicz said many people were sledding there throughout the weekend. The precaution was imposed after the more serious of the two accidents occurred on a hill on the east side of Wildwood School, which extends to basketball and tennis courts at its base.

According to police, at 12:43 p.m. Tuesday a 9-year-old girl hurt her head after losing control of a tube she was riding down that hill.

She crashed into a snow pile that had been cleared from the courts below, according to the report.

She was treated at the scene by Amherst Fire Department paramedics and brought by ambulance to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, where she was later released.

There was no police report filed for the second accident, which occurred at a hill between Crocker Farm School and Shays Street, according to Bohonowicz.

Though he did not provide details, Bohonowicz said the injury was less serious. Still, he said, it showed the perils of sledding when the snow is not soft and fluffy.

Bohonowicz said the dangers are compounded by children who build their own jumps into the sides of the hills and go airborne, landing on hardened piles of snow or ice-covered pavement.

The schools don’t prohibit people from using these slopes during weekends, holidays and evenings, so those who wish to sled and take advantage of the snow can still do so at their own risk.

The hills, like playgrounds, are off limits to the public when school is in session, he said.

Bohonowicz said school officials have all been updated on the accidents.

The principals at each of the three elementary schools are responsible for monitoring conditions and determining whether they should restrict other outdoor activities.

Besides the current prohibition on sledding, school officials sent a notification to all staff to make sure children don’t attempt to burrow into the snow or create snow structures that might collapse on them.

Children are also being asked not to hide behind snow banks during recess, Bohonowicz said.

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