Walking up to Hyde Elementary’s playground, it’s clear one thing is missing: the wooden bridge that once connected the two main play structures.
It’s been removed for safety reasons because after more than 10 years of wear, tear and being exposed to humid Texas weather, it was no longer safe for students to walk across.
Today, the structure that once served as one large, completely connected playground is now two smaller structures, and the openings that once led to the bridge have been boarded off with plywood to keep children safe from falling.
Replacing the playground has been a mission of the school’s PTA for the last year, but because some playgrounds can cost on the upwards of $100,000, fundraising could take a while. To date, the PTA has raised about $30,000 towards their efforts.
If voters approve a $487 million bond in May, replacing and improving Clear Creek ISD’s playgrounds would be just a small portion of the $20.8 million in safety improvements district officials are planning to make.
The proposed bond would result in a $0.035 tax rate increase. This would equate to a $5.47 per month increase for a homeowner of a media home valued at $223,635.
If the bond were to pass, the district would fund $2.65 million in playground equipment replacement. Of that, $1.5 million would be allotted for adding new playgrounds and $1.15 million would be put toward making what has been termed critical repairs.
If the bond is not approved by voters, the district would use money from its capital funds to make these improvements, said Paul Miller, director of facility services.
Over the last 20 years, as new elementary schools were built, the district installed one Pre-K playground at each campus. Playgrounds for older children were funded through PTA fundraising, as well as any major repairs or playground replacements.
Growing playground safety concerns led the district to hire a certified playground safety inspector to review each campus’ playground. What was found was the need for both repairs and new replacement playgrounds.
Through a playground replacement and repair program, all of the district’s playgrounds would be brought up to the same standards, which was set by a district playground committee.
Those standards include making all of the playgrounds ADA accessible, adding swings, slides, and other engaging, interactive play equipment.
“It’s important that kids get out and move,” said Holly Hughes, assistant superintendent of elementary education. “We want kids to learn more through interaction.”
The program would repair all of the current structures that have been declared as critical and then move to a cycle of maintenance and maintaining the other structures, Miller said.
Those campuses with playgrounds in major disrepair are Armand Bayou Elementary, Clear Lake City Elementary, Hyde Elementary and Landolt Elementary, he said.
Currently, there are 72 play structures/components across Clear Creek ISD.
“That’s from something as simple as a pull-up bar, all the way to a big playground,” Miller said.
Besides replacing and repairing all of the structures, the playground replacement and repair program would remove the financial burden from the school’s PTA, which would allow them to allocate their fundraising efforts back into the classrooms, he said.
Because Hyde Elementary’s PTA has already raised $30,000 for a new playground, in order to maintain the organization’s integrity, Alyssa Kelley, the school’s PTA president, said the organization still plans to use the funds towards further improving the school’s outdoor space.
“We are planning to put the money toward other playground enhancements like sun shades and more seating,” Kelley said.
The PTA has also talked about using the money to find ways to educate students on play so that the new playground and outdoor areas are utilized to their full capacity.
“Because of the limited activity available on our current playground, we find out kids are not engaging in play to the highest potential,” Hyde Principal Kelly Chapman said. “They’re just running around.”
But once those funds are spent, any new PTA funds will go directly into the classrooms, Chapman said.
Shifting the full responsibility of playgrounds to the district rather than PTAs would also include the annual maintenance, Miller said. That means the district will also take on the annual inspections and repairs, he said.
The cost of future repairs to playgrounds will be included in the district’s maintenance department’s budget.
“Safety improvements go back to the students 100 percent,” Hughes said. “It’s the best investment we can make.”
For more information on the Bond 2017 Referendum, click here.