By Conrad Dudderar
With one site nearly finished and a second coming next month, two Yukon schools this summer are getting new playgrounds that provide access to all students.
Yukon Public Schools is spending nearly $1 million from the 2021 bond issue to buy and install new playground equipment at Central and Shedeck elementary schools.
“This bond has been so impactful to give us the budget of $500,000 for each elementary school,” said Lance Haggard, YPS’ executive director of elementary education. “Without our patrons’ support of the bond, this wouldn’t happen.”
The YPS Board of Education this spring approved hiring Happy Playground LLC of Tulsa to provide new modular play structures designed for students in prekindergarten through third grade.
Cost is $471,367.40 for Central and $479,690.20 for Shedeck.
Central’s new playground, 300 S 9th, should be done soon after synthetic turf is installed. Construction of Shedeck’s new playground, 2100 S Holly, starts in July.
“Our old equipment was outdated and antiquated,” Haggard said. “It was time to replace.”
The aesthetically-pleasing, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)-accessible school playgrounds will feature the artificial grass turf, which replace wood fiber or pea gravel.
“This turf is the newest thing on the market,” Haggard said. “It has a pad underneath that meets impact requirements. It drains quickly and is covered by a 20-year warranty (for tears or fading).
“The turf also is a lot safer than any other previous surfacing.”
Happy Playground installed new playgrounds in summer 2022 at Ranchwood and Skyview elementary schools.
“It’s a similar design, same company and same product line,” Haggard said. “Happy Playground came out as the winning bid, and that was nice because of consistency. They utilize structures from Play World.”
Haggard recommended Happy Playground based on various criteria, including price, prior experience in the industry, proximity, meeting bid requirements, qualifications, and references.
In the request for proposals, YPS officials included requirements that all equipment be developmentally- and age-appropriate for elementary-level students (ages 4-10).
“Accessibility features for our special needs students is a primary focus for all seven of these projects,” Haggard noted. “Wheelchair access is important to us.”
Previously, the district’s playgrounds were geared toward students up to sixth grade. That’s when Yukon elementary schools had half-day kindergarten students and first through sixth graders, with no Pre-K classes.
“Each new playground is designed specifically for an early childhood age-range of student,” Haggard added.
Central also is receiving a new 50 X 50 concrete basketball court with new poles and backboards to meet the school’s specific needs.
Shedeck will receive a 12 X 15 outdoor stage where students can engage in creative play activities.
IT NOW TAKES MORE THAN
Haggard referred to existing YPS playground equipment installed more than 40 years ago by volunteers.
In some cases, school sites would raise a few thousand dollars to buy new equipment.
Times have changed.
“The price of these pieces (of play equipment) today is staggering,” said Haggard, former principal at Parkland Elementary. “One piece alone can be $150,000.”
The new YPS elementary play equipment will all be similar – with some nuances.
“We wanted that; we wanted the school to have a ‘voice’,” Haggard noted. “Each site principal had a committee consisting of parents, teachers and students that provided a significant amount of input about what they wanted to see in their new playground.”
While schools like Central and Myers have ample room in back to install the new play equipment, sites like Shedeck have limited room.
“Every space outside is different,” Haggard said.
Each new playground has the same color scheme featuring lots of white and gray with a splash of Yukon Miller red on the sides.
More YPS elementaries will welcome playground upgrades in summer 2024. The final three will be Parkland, Myers and Surrey Hills.
Elementary sites also have been seeing other long-overdue interior improvements funded by the ’21 school bond.
Highlights are extensive classroom furniture refreshes with innovative features (like flexible seating), new carpeting and painting.
Parkland and Skyview, the final two schools to get updated furnishings, will be done in mid-July.