School board to replace Devon and Hillside Elementary playgrounds


By Rohan Anne, Co-Webmaster

For the past year, the mem- bers of the school board’s Fa- cilities Committee discussed possible ways to make the ele- mentary schools’ playgrounds more accessible, safe and fun for the students. During Jan- uary and February, the com- mittee created a plan to install new and accessible playground equipment. The committee planned to replace the play- grounds of Devon and Hillside Elementary Schools first since they are the most outdated, and then move on to the rest of the schools in the district.

The new playground design plan is based on input from both Devon and Hillside El- ementary Schools on which aspects of the playground are in bad condition or outdated and which need to be replaced or revamped. According to Fa- cilities Committee chair Mi- chelle Burger, the school board created this project to provide funding and improve the play- grounds for all students.

“Playground equipment has not been part of the district’s in- frastructure plan. Instead, PTOs would raise money to donate new equipment, and while they have been very generous with these donations, we knew that this cur- rent practice wasn’t sustainable or equitable,” Burger said. “We also wanted to ensure that there would be new equipment accessible to students with mobility issues.”

The new playgrounds will haveasmoothrubberizedsur- face instead of a rough mulch terrain. The schools will also be outfitted with an AstroTurf field, all-ability chairs and tables for wheelchair support. Finally, the two elementary schools will install new playground equip- ment and colorful paintings. For Devon Elementary School PTO President Nicole Brigham, the new playgrounds’ greater safety is the most important aspect of the replacements.

“I don’t think the kids care what the equipment or play- ground actually looks like, they just want to use the equipment,” Brigham said. “Safety and the new accessibility that this equip-

ment will provide is the most im- portant thing.”

Not only will the new play- grounds allow for greater enter- tainment, safety and accessibility, but they will also significantly reduce the maintenance of the facilities, as well. According to Burger, the rubberized ground will reduce the annual cost and maintenance hours required with the current mulch.

“The district currently uses mulchunderandaroundthe play areas that require it, which costs approximately $60,000 per year, along with multiple labor hours to install it,” Burger said. “Replacing the mulch with a ma- terial that allows the equipment to be used more frequently — regardless of the previous day’s weather — was a goal shared by the elementary school principals and (school) board.”

According to Burger, replac- ing the playgrounds is a worthy investment of time and money so that all elementary students in the district can equally enjoy their recess time.

“Play is an integral part of learning at the elementary

Rohan Anne/The SPOKE Planning playgrounds: Hillside Elementary School is set to be one of the first schools to replace its playground

and upgrade its equipment, along with Devon Elementary School. The school board ruled that the school will receive a new AstroTurf field, sensory play equipment and multi-directional swings.

school level. These improve- ments support all children regardless of their abilities al- lowing them equal access to

play equipment,” Burger said. “The use of rubberized surface instead of mulch removes phys- ical barriers and allows for out-

door recess to take place more often since there won’t be mud and puddles under and around the equipment.”

Rohan Anne can be reached at [email protected].