By Per Peterson
The Parent-Teacher Club of Tracy is not playing around when it comes to recess at Tracy Elementary School. They hope their current fundraiser will go a long way in helping kids get the most out of their playground experience in the future.
Representing the PTC at the District 2904 school board meeting in December, Missie Erbes presented the group’s vision of a “themed” playground. Erbes said that while the current playground definitely serves its purpose, there are some safety issues when it comes to smaller kids using it.
“The current playground out there right now is fantastic,” Erbes told school board members. “It meets a lot of needs, it’s huge — we can get a lot of kids onto it. However, there are a few areas on the playground where if you start putting a kindergartner on it, or a first-grader on it, it’s a little too advanced and/or a little too high for that age level. It does make a few of us a little nervous.”
The playground project is two years in the making, Erbes said. At the December meeting, Erbes told members the PTC has chosen a design with a city theme. The top two priorities the PTC used in determining what way to go were budget and use, as in the structure needs to be kid-friendly for preschoolers to nine-year-olds. The structure that was chosen is designed for two to 12-year-olds, Erbes said. The capacity of the 34” x 48” playground is 110 to 116 children.
Erbes said the cost of playgrounds today typically ranges from $40,000 to $100,000, not including installation or the surface. The playground that was agreed upon for TES has a price tag of $40,153. The total cost estimate would come to $77,057 and would include $1,000 for an installation consultant and $35,904 for surface installation (excavating, cement and poured soft surface).
As of now, the PTC has raised nearly half of that $77,057, Erbes reported.
“We’re excited to finally have a piece that we can show off to the public,” Erbes said.
The PTC sponsors two fundraisers each year — a Chip Shoppe fundraiser in the fall and a fudge fundraiser this month. Students will be selling a limited selection of one-half pound boxes of Walnut Grove Mercantile fudge for $5 and a one-pound box for $10. A sugar-free option is available for $10 for a half-pound box. Students will be selling until Jan. 20, with the fudge delivered to students on Feb. 9, in time for distribution prior to Valentine’s Day.
Erbes hopes that having an image of the playground to show potential donors will expedite the fundraising process.
Another PTC goal is to have a “themed” playground to foster kids’ imaginations.
“There is so much research out there that shows that creative play enhances a child’s academic improvements at school, so we really wanted to find a piece that would be theatric in some way,” Erbes said.
The playground structure chosen is called “City Scape” and is designed in a panel structure that includes a police station, fire station and a bank. The smooth, rubberized surface of the playground is meant to portray city streets, with street size. The current playground is a combination of rubber sections and pea rock.
“We plan to do the roads, which can easily be poured, and depending on fundraising efforts at the time — or fundraising efforts in the future — we can add little bouncy cars that can be stationary on the road,” Erbes said. “That will enhance that creative playtime.”
Another important feature of the planned playground improvements is its handicapped-accessibility. Erbes said there are a handful of students who use either a wheelchair or a walker, plus some students who have trouble climbing more traditional playground equipment. The new playground, Erbes said, would make handicapped students feel more included.
“Because it’s a flat surface, it will be like rolling over carpet,” Erbes said. “For them to be able to go out on the playground — though they’re not going to be able to climb up in the structure — they can still play behind all of the panels and roll into the fire truck and pretend they are driving the fire truck.”
The location of the new playground equipment would be somewhere north of the current equipment, although in response to some concern at the December meeting about the moisture content in that area, Erbes said the actual location has not been defined as of yet.