It’s usually wise to avoid “shady” deals, but eight Iowa school districts are getting grants to build sun shade structures to shield students from the midday rays. The grants came through the Iowa Department of Public Health, where spokeswoman Jolene Carver says kids need to learn early about the potential hazards of too much sunshine.

“A lot of the school grounds have taken shade off of the playgrounds and then they put the kids out to play for recess over the noon hour, which is not the best time of day to be out,” Carver says. “We’ve put money out available, it’s federal and state funds that are helping do this.”

Carver is coordinator of the state health department’s skin cancer control program. Each school district got $4,000, for a total of $32,000 being spent on the structures statewide. Carver says each school is choosing the type of shade-provider that’ll work best during recess or other outdoor activities.

“Some are putting hard structures in place, like gazebos,” Carver says. There are also picnic shelter-type structures that are open with just columns and a roof. Other schools are planning to use more temporary structures that are basically canvas awnings supported by metal poles. They can be taken down during stormy and winter weather.

Carver says skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Iowa and in the United States and these structures will offer kids protection from the sun. “We need to protect our skin, no matter what age,” Carver says. “Our children need to be taught how to take care of their skin for their lifetimes to reduce their risk of developing skin cancer.”

She says eight Iowa school districts applied for the funds and all eight got the money. Carver says the program will likely be offered again next year. The schools that got the grants this year are: Sidney Community School District – Elementary School; Mt. Ayr Community Schools – Ringgold County Child Care; Keokuk Community School District – George Washington School; Northeast Community School District – Goose Lake; Mormon Trail Community School – Humeston; North Mahaska Early Childhood Education Center – New Sharon; St. Ansgar Community Schools; and St. Mary’s School – Storm Lake.