Columbia Schools Work to Keep Your Kids Safe from the Sun

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COLUMBIA - Oakland Middle School is taking steps to make sure its students know how to protect themselves from harmful UV rays.

OMS's former school nurse Courtney Stout worked with dermatologist Dr. John DeSpain to get a grant from the American Academy of Dermatology.

The program provides schools with multi-purpose, permanent shade structures. Each Shade Structure Grant costs about $8,000.

Dr. DeSpain said OMS is the first school in Missouri to receive this grant to build a shade. He said learning how to protect yourself from the sun is a lifelong skill.

"Most of the skin's severe UV damage begins in youth," he said. "The nice thing about a structure is it's immediate. You step under it, and you're immediately protected from UV damage."

OMS Principal Helen Porter said that the school plans to use its new shade for a variety of purposes.

"We have one tree to keep us cool, but now we have another place that the kids can be supervised and also stay safe from the sun under the shade," she said.

Porter said OMS students can use the shade to cool down after football and track practices, to wait for rides after school and even as an outdoor classroom.

She thinks its important for OMS to include lessons on sun protection in its health classes.

"Some of our kids have never thought about it before. I want to make sure they think about wearing that sunscreen, so they don't get sunburned. And they don't have dermatological effects in their 40's and 50's because of the choices they made as a teenager" Porter said.

Courtney Stout is now the nurse at Battle High School, but applied to get the grant money when she worked at OMS.

She said getting the OMS students involved in learning about protecting their skin in a fun way was key. They made posters and helped Dr. DeSpain's office film a commercial.

"We're hoping the structure will serve the community as well as the school and the students. Much more than just here at Oakland," Stout said.