Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Washington Playground Update

In the past few weeks I have been hearing from people regarding the changes that are being proposed to the Washington Elementary Playground. The playground is outdated and it is time for a new one to be installed.

It's been interesting to see how something seemingly so simple can become the itch we all need to scratch. There really does seem to be a solution that will satisfy the great majority of folks with an interest in the playground. I hope last night's discussion meeting will help people see how much we all have in common and allow for everyone to come together to support what should be a great project for the children at Washington Elementary.

Here are the issues:
1) Small Play Area- This will not change but it also means that adding more parking spaces and taking away children play area ought to be out of the question
2) Security issues- I have received numerous emails from parents and teachers saying that there is an issue with people who simply want to use the playground as a shortcut between the library and a way to get uptown. Additionally, this playground is used by a number of life skills students who may be at risk of wandering off the play area if they do not see a playground barrier.

Last night we had a good discussion about where we are in the planning of the playground and we heard from a number of parents who have been involved in the playground committee. The plan that was presented last night was NOT the one that most people had seen even as late as last week.

The proposal that appears to be before us now includes the following:
1) Security cameras- There have been incidents of alcohol being used on the playground when the school is not in session. Cameras will allow the District to see exactly what is going on. It will also deter any vandalism.
2) Parking Spaces- Parking spaces have been removed from the latest proposal. This will allow us to maximize the limited playing space that we have.
3) Fencing- Much of the fencing has been removed from the playground proposal. Again, this will allow us to maximize the limited playing space
4) Security- We discussed adding security gates at the ingress/egress points of the playground. The goal is to have these be as low profile as possible but to clearly be a visual deterrent to people who want to use the playground as a shortcut. There may be ways to time the opening/closing of the gates to coincide with playground and off-hours times. We need to make sure the playground area is available to the community when school is out of session.

I believe the Board does see an issue with parking spaces for teachers and staff at both Mellon and Washington schools. Mr. Allison has been tasked to try to figure out something to alleviate the problem. I think there are opportunities for us to work with either the Mt Lebanon Parking Authority or even with the church that owns the parking lot next to the library. Either one of these options would help. In my mind it is important prioritize maximizing playground space for our children over adding just a few parking spaces.

In sum, I think we have a pretty good solution for the playground. There will be more discussions by the Board when final proposals are submitted. What I wrote above is the direction I believe we are headed at this point.

I wish the playground committee luck in raising money for the new equipment. Please try to keep me up to date regarding fundraisers.

The opinions expressed in the post are mine and do not represent the opinions of the Board as a whole.

James Fraasch