I don't know about you, but for me, this feels like the summer that never was. Just as it feels I'm settling into the rhythm of the season, it's time for back-to-school; all Douglas County schools resume on Monday.
There have been some significant changes to the playground areas at several Douglas County elementary schools. Recently, a parent called me to express concern over missing play equipment at their local school site. Not knowing the reason for its removal, I made a call to the Douglas County School District office.
Chief Financial Officer Holly Luna explained that the school district recently went through an extensive third-party safety evaluation by Willis Pooling, the risk control consultant for Nevada Public Agency Insurance Pool, which is the district's property and casualty liability insurance carrier. The review included standards from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association, a not-for-profit organization that provides product certification for public play structures and surfacing materials. With safety as the number one concern, DCSD removed equipment that did not meet the recommendations set forth in the final report.
Utilizing bond funds, the district was recently able to support improvement efforts at two elementary playgrounds. Existing equipment deemed safe was relocated to a more appropriate foundation. Luna said those experiences helped DCSD establish, best practices the goal is now to develop a district-wide standard that follows the nationally based safety measures. Guidelines will be provided to individual school sites as they work toward updating their play areas.
"We want revitalized playgrounds that are compliant and have an eye toward safety," said Luna.
Shadowing these efforts is the issue of funding. Play structures can easily cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. All the while, the district is increasingly being asked to do more with less. PTO support and school fundraisers definitely help, but here's where community support can prove invaluable.
Raley's Supermarket is currently sponsoring their "Raley's Reach" program, which awards $10,000 each to five schools throughout the California/Nevada region. Anyone can submit a school improvement based nomination, and awards are granted to the nominees that receive the highest number of votes. Log on to www.raleys.com to learn more about Raley's Reach, submit a request for your school, and cast your vote.
KaBoom! is a national non-profit dedicated to saving play for America's children. Their goal is to create great play spaces through the participation and leadership of communities," which includes "a place to play within walking distance of every child in America." Their numerous grant awards range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. For more information, go to www.kaboom.org.
Douglas County has proven time and time again that banding together as a community makes things happen. A little initiative may be all that's needed to positively impact our local schools; our children deserve nothing less.
Amy Roby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.