CARLSBORG — This school year, recess has changed at Greywolf Elementary School in Carlsborg.
Sequim School District officials completed in August an official assessment of 25-year-old playground equipment at the school at 171 Carlsborg Road.
What they found was that three of the six pieces of large playground pieces geared for students in grades K-2 were not up to the newest safety codes. The pieces were removed within the week.
“It was unexpected. We didn’t realize our playground furniture wasn’t up to code,” said Donna Hudson, Greywolf principal.
The school district changed insurance companies last year to Washington Schools Risk Management Pool, which requires playground safety inspections, according to Brian Lewis, director of business operations for Sequim’s schools.
After completing training the insurance provider requires, district staff found some of Greywolf’s equipment had protruding bolt heads and unsafe gaps that warranted their removal, he said.
The equipment’s removal was particularly untimely, school advocates say, with the addition of full-day kindergarten classes in September.
As of March 1, the school had 78 full-time kindergartners among its nearly 500 students.
Dede Bessey, president of the Greywolf Parent-Teacher Association, has a kindergartner and third-grader at the school and said they noticed the difference during their recesses.
“At first, they kind of thought it was unfair, [saying], ‘What are we going to play on?’ They adjusted quickly, but they don’t have any alternative,” Bessey said.
“[At recess], I see a lot of running around and rolling around, not knowing what to do with themselves.”
Hudson said younger Greywolf students are making the best of it they can, and the school has purchased small athletic equipment until the school can replace the larger pieces.
“The kids are always going to do their best,” Hudson said, “[but] with 230 kids on one climbing apparatus [that’s gone], there are a lot of kids displaced. There are more doing soccer, so we’ve been buying lots of balls.
“I think they’re coping as well, [but it’s] not as fun as it should be for little kids,” she said. “The little kids have a harder time figuring it out.”
To solve the playground predicament, the Greywolf PTA has started a fundraising drive to bring back at least one large apparatus and also is looking to make the play area more Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant.
“We’re hoping to be able to do this for the kids,” Bessey said.
“They need to be outside. It does help their learning.”
Bessey said the school needs about $35,000 for the complete project, including:
■ $22,000 for a large piece of equipment that accommodates about 80 children.
■ $6,000 to install the equipment and replace bark.
■ $5,000 for a stand-alone piece of equipment for autistic children.
■ $1,000 for wheelchair ramps.
■ $1,000 for advertising and donor plaques.
The large piece of equipment, Hudson said, would have ramps and three swings — similar to the big playground equipment at Carrie Blake Park minus the slide.
Project fundraising already has begun.
The PTA voted to donate half of the $10,000 it raised from a recent cookie dough fundraiser to the effort, Bessey said, and Lewis noted the school district is contributing $10,000 to the project.
Sunrise Rotary members and other local volunteers are looking to help out with installing the equipment to keep costs down.
Students are getting in on the fundraising as well, Bessey said.
A “Pennies for the Playground Drive” has started at the school, with Greywolf youths bringing in spare change. A collection jar is located inside the elementary school office.
Hudson said she hopes to have enough funds raised to purchase and install a new playground apparatus before the end of the school year and that Greywolf will look to add smaller pieces of equipment in the years to come as funding allows.
Aiding the fund
To help with tax-deductible donations, drop them off at any Sound Community Bank location (denote funds for the Greywolf PTA Playground Fund) or mail funds to Greywolf PTA, P.O. Box 311, Carlsborg, WA 98324.
For more information, call Bessey at 360-670-1320 or email [email protected]
See www.greywolfpta.com for more information about the group.
________Michael Dashiell is an editor with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected]