Plans coming together for new playground

By Chris Steinbach · Monday, September 24, 2012
Parents and school officials have raised about 80 percent of the estimated $92,167 that will be needed for the new playground. And National Playground Compliance Group, a manufacturer in Carlisle, would accept a promissory note with 0 percent financing until July 2013, said Karen Sherman of Solon, the company’s eastern Iowa program manager.

Next July is when Physical Plant and Equipment Levy money would be available to the district to pay the balance of the playground project.

“You guys really need it now,” Sherman said of the new playground.

The old playground equipment was removed earlier this year because it hadn’t been built for the size of the students who now attend the school. There had also been a high incidence of injuries on the old equipment, which was made of wood and contained arsenic.

But in order to play outside, the students have had to walk to nearby Kimberly Park or use an asphalt pad at the school since the old equipment was removed.

Teachers at the school board meeting said neither the park nor the asphalt offer an ideal solution. It takes about an extra 20 minutes out of the students’ classroom time to go to Kimberly Park and back, said Lillian Ortiz, a pre-kindergarten teacher.

In searching for solutions to the playground problem, parents and officials at the school discovered the playground built in Solon by National Playground Compliance. The company builds the equipment and uses recycled tires to make the surface for its playgrounds.

The company’s surface tiles and equipment are maintenance-free and have a 27-year life expectancy, Sherman said. She said the tiles have been proven to help reduce injuries due to falls.

Parents who have taken their children to the playground in Solon spoke in favor of buying from Sherman’s company.

“There was enough to offer for my older child while still being safe for my younger child,” Shawna Laughlin said of a trip her family made to Solon on Sept. 9. “With the different levels, they were both entertained. They had a good time.”

Marci Goulett said her children didn’t want to leave the playground in Solon. “We pretty much had to threaten them that it was time to go,” she said.

Even with the testimonials, the district can’t simply agree to do business with National Playground Compliance. The district will have to seek bids from at least two other companies for both the equipment and surface tiles, according to business manager Tom Anderson.

The board voted 5-0 to seek the bids.

In the meantime, parents and school officials are working to raise money to help pay the balance of the project. They have been holding raffles as fundraisers and are overseeing a Pennies for the Playground program as a way for students to contribute.

Goulett has been helping write and submit grants that could be used to help pay off the balance of the project. They are awaiting word on seven grants worth a total of about $50,000, Goulett said.

“Most of the (funding) decisions will be made in October,” Goulett said.
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