Atwater Elementary is getting a new playground on the west side of the school. The old playground was completely demolished on October 12, and the new one is scheduled to be built before the end of October.
The need for a new playground arose in the spring of 2014 when the slide broke.
“Near the end of the school year two years ago, we came to play on the playground and there was a big board across the slide, on that big spiral one, and we went up and took a look and sure enough the slide had broken,” said Chris Stepanski, parent.
Stepanski volunteered to repair the slide.
“I fixed it … but I told the folks at school, I said, ‘We might get one or two more years out of this thing and that’s about it; we’re going to need a new slide pretty soon.’ And that’s what got the whole playground thing started,” Stepanski said.
According to Kayla Russick, Atwater principal, the company that made the playground no longer made the slide, but it recommended getting a new playground because the equipment was around 20-years-old and was starting to break.
Russick organized a group of parents to be on a committee for the playground.
“We found out about the process [and] we realized this was going to be a lot of money,” Russick said.
They received a $15,000 matching grant from the Shorewood Foundation along with donations and fundraising from the Atwater 100 campaign.
“We were hoping that we could pay for the playground and do some improvements to the school, like trying to bring it back to its original state, and most of what we raised [for the Atwater 100 campaign] really took over for the playground,” Russick said.
The final cost of the new playground is around $75,000.
“All the companies, too, want you to pay like half when you order, so we knew we had to raise enough money to pay for half of what we ordered. So that was really what kind of set us back. We were hoping to have this all installed before school started in September,” Russick said.
The playground committee got opinions from various people about what equipment to get.
“We polled the teachers, we polled the students, everybody had an input … and we took what everybody wanted and we put that into the design and incorporated everything,” said Heather Stepanski, parent.
In art class, students drew pictures of their ideal playground and wrote a description.
“We saw some wild suggestions. One child wanted a zip-line from the roof of the school to the playground,” Chris said.
“They gave us papers for us to tell them what we want on the new playground,” said Sophia Deak, third grade. “I wanted swings [and a] slide.”
The plans for the playground feature slides, climbing nets and spinning equipment.
Michelle Fisher, Milestones site coordinator, attended a few committee meetings.
“They asked my opinion because I work with kids on a regular basis and had been at Atwater for a long time. We were talking about safety and how teachers and playground supervisors would be able to monitor the safe play of it, and we were looking for equipment that would encourage kids to use it in a safe but vigorous manner. We were also looking for not a lot of blind spots so that the children would always be visible to the supervisors so that we could make sure that everything was going the way it should be; but above all, that it’d be fun and engaging and challenging because it was an older group that was going to be out there,” Fisher said.
Although they had to work within the space, the committee tried to incorporate movement.
“The folks on the committee thought that having a lot of movement in the design would be a good thing to have because we want the kids to be out there being active,” Chris said.
“We could tell right up until the point that they were tearing out the playground, the kids were bored and done with the playground. No one wanted to play on it after school anymore. It’s like, the slide’s broken; there’s no swings; there’s nothing to do anymore; there’s no kids on it anymore,” Heather said.
Russick said the students are excited for the new playground.
“There will be new equipment that the other playground we have so far does not have,” said Samuel Mitich, first grade.
The committee also investigated the surface.
“That rubberized surface we quickly found out cost as much as the playground,” Russick said.
Instead they decided on mulch. According to Chris Stepanski, the mulch is ADA compliant and easier for wheelchairs to roll on.
“I’ve never done this before; … it’s been a really interesting process to go through. It’s a lot of work but I thought it was a great effort on parents and teachers and the students’ input,” Russick said.
by Sabine Peterka