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School Board OKs request for Pond Cove playground fundraising

The School Board on May 8, 2018 gave Pond Cove School the go-ahead to begin raising funds to improve the school playground.

A $115,000 allocation for the playground and other capital improvements did not make the fiscal 2019 school budget cut this spring, so officials will look to parent and community organizations - and maybe the town government - for help in at least restoring portions of the playground that are no longer useful.

"The area that we thought needed the most attention right now was 'Natureland'," Pond Cove School Nurse Erin Taylor told members of the board May 8, 2018. The area at the north end of the school campus has provided quiet, unstructured play as well as a venue for environmental learning since 2009, but the standing gazebo is starting to rot, Taylor said. Better garden configuration and access to water are also needed for educational opportunities, she said. "So that was one area that we thought was really important to address."

The playground improvement project has been ongoing for about five years, Taylor said. "There's been a lot of wear and tear," she said, describing uneven playground surfaces, loose gravel and rocks resulting in twisted ankles and, in the case of some aging playground structures, broken bones. Last summer, with funds from the Facilities and Transporation Deparment, some of the equipment, including slides and structures that failed inspection, were removed, along with an asphalt basketball court and small rocks from Natureland. New basketball hoops on safer poles were installed on blacktop, along with new fencing, drainage improvements and earthwork and seeding of disturbed areas.

The school has a phased plan, developed by a local architect, for a new playground incorporating the ideas of parents, teachers, and most importantly, students. Students have said they'd like more grass to run on and play ball, but areas where equipment was removed last summer was seeded too late in the season, so kids are playing on asphalt or dirt, Taylor said.

She said she and Principal Jason Manjourides planned to meet the next day with the Pond Cove Parents Association for fundraising ideas. "At some point we'd also like to talk with Town Council to see if there's another way, because that playground is used not only by Pond Cove students but by the community at large," Taylor said.

In the past, playground inspection was conducted by the Facilities Department director, but new director Perry Schwarz sees that as a conflict of interest and prefers to contract with a third party trained and insured for playground inspections, Taylor said in an email after the meeting.

School Board members unanimously approved the Pond Cove School's request, and apologized that funding could not come from the school budget. Taylor said the ideal goal would be to raise funds for the entire project, estimated at $250,000, but that Natureland was the first priority. Project cost could be more if structures are more elaborate.

High School greenhouse concept approved

In other matters, the board also approved a High School greenhouse concept from science teacher Bill Brewington. Brewington told board members last month that he envisions a working greenhouse lab that could also support a botany club, expanded horticulture curriculum and perhaps fresh cafeteria offerings. He said he did not have a firm time-frame for the project, but that it may take a couple of years to develop.