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Paynesville Press - January 18, 2006

School planning further improvements at playground

By Michael Jacobson

On the heels of safety improvements at the elementary school playground this winter, more changes are planned for next summer.

The school district is working on finalizing a plan for improvements, including a proposed city-school partnership for the playground, named "Chutes 'n' Ladders."

This winter, for safety reasons, Phase I of the playground improvements were completed, which included: removing the spider web and animal rockers, purchasing and installing a new Pegasus and Tarantula, and excavation and the addition of pea gravel, totalling $12,261 in costs.

Next summer, the school district would like to complete Phase II, which is not totally set yet due to the uncertainty of funding. Part of Phase II, though, includes adding activities that would appeal to the older students (fourth and fifth graders) at the elementary school. This includes purchasing six basketball hoops and creating a 50-foot by 84-concrete playing surface.

This portion of proposed improvements, including the removal costs for the eight-swing swing set (to make room for the basketball playing surface) and other related costs (excavation and installation, etc.) is estimated to cost $19,303.

playground Other options for Phase II include: adding a tot lot ($7,000-$10,000 for equipment), removing the digger and dinosaur and replacing them with the Hags Agito Challenge ($12,000), replacing all swing sets ($2,000 apiece), and add volleyball or soccer nets.

This tarantula has already been installed, for safety reasons, at "Chutes 'n' Ladders," the playground at Paynesville Area Elementary School. If more funding is found - the school district has another $18,000 budgeted - $33,000 more in playground improvements could be made next summer.

The total proposed costs are $44,000, of which the school district has current revenues for this project of $29,050 ($15,000 from the school's capital funds, $14,000 from the elementary fundraiser (Club Choice), and $50 in donations), leaving just under $15,000.

The school district is approaching the city about a partnership for the playground, since it is used by the public during non-school hours, especially in the summers.

Elementary principal Deb Gillman presented this proposal to the city's park and tree board recently and reported back to the school board last week. City concerns about the project, said Gillman, include making the playground more inviting from nearby Gazebo Park and solving the stormwater problem at the playground.

This is a problem, superintendent Todd Burlingame told the board, as the playground turns into a lake every spring.

One solution would be to raise the level of the playground by adding lots and lots of pea rock. As this may be cost prohibitive, another option for the school district to investigate is connecting the playground drains to the city's stormwater sewer system.

As for the Gazebo Park, the park and tree board suggested another more-inviting entrance to the playground. The school, for security purposes, would want to be able to lock this gate during school recesses. The city could provide a crosswalk to this gate from Gazebo Park. Further negotiations between the city and school are expected on the proposed playground improvements.

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