When it comes to getting the most out of a school district’s playground budget, there are a number of factors to consider. First is to consider the current state of your district’s playgrounds. Are they in compliance with ADA and safety standards? Would a thoughtful renovation reduce future maintenance needs? Have funds been spread equally throughout the district or are there some schools that have been overlooked? Is equipment in good shape and being utilized by students? Do you have a multi-year schedule in place that integrates information from every playground in your district into a long-term budgetary plan that helps you plan and allocate funds now and in the future?
Of course, it would be perfect if that schedule could be developed for free by an external consultant, without any drain on your staff or other resources… But that’s a pipe dream, right? Actually, no, it’s a real thing that Park Place Recreation Designs is pleased to provide its clients.
What Do You Really Need?
Your school district’s playground needs assessment is exactly what it sounds like: A summary document built after we visit every playground in your district and professionally assess every piece of equipment and play environment in terms of safety, code compliance, general wear, obsolescence, etc. The assessment assigns your playground needs a priority of 1, 2 or 3:
Priority 1 is something that is truly an immediate need, usually due to safety or compliance concerns.
Priority 2 is an issue that should be addressed within the next five years, often an equipment upgrade.
Priority 3 is assigned to fairly new equipment at the beginning of its life cycle, when it is not expected to develop issues for another 10 or 15 years.
This needs assessment is a powerful tool that has real value for planning and rebuilding play environments and for assigning realistic budget amounts over time. It also provides a couple of other benefits:
1. By planning play equipment upgrades in a systematic manner, unplanned maintenance costs are reduced in the long run.
2. If your school district has multiple playgrounds that serve variable groups of students, the assessment can help to build district standardization into your future plans for each facility. Standard designs can be implemented equitably across the district or plugged into future bond projects, new school construction, etc.
When it’s time to address priorities from a needs assessment, we work with you to create a plan and select equipment that meets your budget as well as the physical and social needs of your students. (Do you have access to BuyBoard? Read on.) Then fixing the prioritized items can be as simple as replacing a single piece of equipment, taking slightly more complicated steps such as widening pathways and upgrading play surfaces, or, as necessary, doing an entire playscape renovation from top to bottom: Taking structures down to the support poles; repainting the poles; adding new decks, climbers, slides, etc.; adding or replacing shade structures (this is Texas, after all); and making any updates to surfacing. The result is a gorgeous new playscape for your district’s students and for your entire community.
In a real-world example from Alamo Heights ISD, we worked with both of the elementary schools in their district (Woodridge Elementary and Cambridge Elementary) to completely renovate their respective play areas. We added an exciting mega-tower structure, three-bay swing set, a UPC Rock and Ropes course and an accelerator spring. Surfacing was also replaced and 3,000 square feet of freestanding shade was incorporated into the design.
Students aren’t the only ones enjoying the new play area. At Cambridge Elementary, the campus now hosts Stay and Play events after school. And how important is it to the community? As one parent noted on a Facebook post touting the playground opening in time for the fall semester, “I know that playground has been the topic of conversation at many dinner tables this week!” And isn’t that exactly the sort of positive social media coverage you want to see about your district?
The Benefits of BuyBoard
The BuyBoard® national purchasing cooperative is the fastest and easiest way for school districts to streamline the buying process. It offers bulk discounts and online shopping options to participating schools, and Park Place Recreation Designs is proud to be an approved vendor in the BuyBoard system. This means our procurement process has been established to provide transparency, compliance and a documented audit trail for your records. Whether you’re working from the angle of meeting an approved budget or building project parameters to present before budgetary approval, we can help you maximize your playground investment through the options provided by BuyBoard. Our BuyBoard number is #592-19.
Why Park Place Recreation Designs?
Because, quite simply, we understand the challenges you’re facing. We have decades of experience designing and building play structures and parks in Texas, and we’ve come to understand that our most useful role is to help school administrators meet district goals in the most efficient way possible. Once your needs assessment is complete, we can help with product recommendations that meet budget, create designs, handle installations, tie up all the loose ends – and then let you sit back and witness the joy your students and families find in their updated play environments. Later, when it’s time to update the next round of priorities, you’ll find us ready to handle it for you in the same competent, reliable manner. And maybe that’s what “play value” really means for school administrators.
Schedule your free needs assessment today.