We had over 70 people respond to our school survey about improvements we’d like to see in the southwest corner of the playground (the field). Thanks to everyone who responded!
The top five elements desired in the southwest corner of the playground (current field) were ranked by students and adults as follows:
|Students’ Ranking||Adults’ Ranking|
|1. Renovated, open field for ball play||1. Renovated, open field for ball play|
|2. Logs, rocks, stumps for sitting and imaginative play||2. Shade Trees|
|3. Track for running/walking/biking||3. Track for running/walking/biking|
|4. Shade Trees||4. Logs, rocks, stumps for sitting and imaginative play|
|5. Natural areas for digging, games, art||5. Natural areas for digging, games, art|
(I’m guessing shade trees weren’t high on the kids’ list since it’s currently freezing outside, though they do seek shade when it’s hot!)
At our playground meeting on Tuesday this week, we went over the survey and comments and discussed how a renovated field, a path/track, and natural areas could be combined in a design for the southwest corner. We’ll share some initial draft sketches with the community early next year for feedback. We should note that the elements above are generally consistent with our 2006 conceptual master plan, which included an improved field with some trees and a partial track along the edges.
A common thread throughout comments in the survey was the need for all-weather play options, e.g. a desire for artificial turf in the field, shade when it’s hot, and a covered area for outdoor play on rainy days. Some comments in response:
- Shade & covered areas. New trees could be strategically located for maximum shade on the playground. While cloth sun shades haven’t been used by schools in our district to date, we could look into them as options to cover play or sitting areas for sun protection, especially while trees are growing. Permanent covered areas have been explored at Gatewood previously but not pursued for cost reasons (though could be looked at again in future).
- Artificial turf. Artificial turf fields are apparently very expensive to install ($500k), whoever’s paying. When asked, the district responded that SPS does not allow synthetic turf at elementary schools unless it is a site for competitive high school or middle school sports, as they don’t have the resources for routine maintenance (cleaning and repairing the field with specially trained personnel and equipment) and replacement after 8-10 years. And of note for those with kids playing on turf fields elsewhere, the toxicity of crumb rubber used as infill in artificial turf is currently a hot topic, with some local schools and districts banning its use until further studies are done.
- All-season play. We could level and renovate a smaller grass field for ball games while creating more surface area for all-weather play by adding a path/track and wood-chipped natural play areas that remain accessible to students when it’s wet. These areas would also take some foot traffic pressure off the grass field so it stays in better condition and can be more easily maintained over time.
We also talked about some things needed to sustain any improvements:
- Regular maintenance. Beyond maintenance done by the district, we might need to build in a PTA budget and regular volunteer work parties for maintenance of improvements.
- Reminders about dogs. As much as we love our dog friends, they tear up the field when they run and dig there, and we really don’t want their poo where our children are playing. The school is ordering new signs for playground entrances and inside the field to remind neighbors and us all that dogs are not allowed on school grounds.
Happy holidays! We’ll be in touch again after the new year.