Rivera Elementary Playground

The playground at Rivera Elementary School, shown Wednesday, will be replaced after the Denton ISD Board of Trustees approved a plan to replace all elementary school playgrounds. Rivera and Evers Park will be the first two schools to have their playgrounds replaced.

During a regular meeting Tuesday night, Denton ISD school board members allocated more than $337,000 to replace playgrounds in the district.

Playgrounds at Evers Park and Rivera are first up to be renovated, with other elementary schools to follow in later phases.

In a presentation given to school board members in December, Paul Andress, executive director of Maintenance and Operations, said equipment at Evers Park and Rivera is at least 25 years old, but anything unsafe had already been removed.

The city parks department is also in the middle of replacing many playgrounds across Denton. In summer 2018, parks employees prepared an inventory of all the city’s playgrounds and discovered that many were already past their 15-year lifespan. That year, the city tapped 2014 bond funds to replace playgrounds near two schools, including Denia Park and Fred Moore Park as well as at Milam Park.

Since then, the city has been budgeting to replace the equipment. The city also tapped federal funds to replace the playgrounds at MLK Jr. Recreation Center and Quakertown Park.

The school district’s five-phase project to replace playgrounds will tackle the oldest playground sections first, working its way up to Union Park, the district’s 24th and newest elementary.

Because not all aspects of each playground are the same age, some campuses will not be overhauled all at once. Pecan Creek, for example, will be tackled in five parts.

Among the considerations discussed over the past months were the type of flooring to fill in around playground sets. Artificial turf, types of rubber and wood fibers were among the options discussed.

Depending on the surface selected, the price could vary by more than $40,000 for a single playground. Because of the high cost and long lifespan of the playgrounds, Superintendent Jamie Wilson told board members the district might not want to pay for all updates from its normal operating budget.

“This really might be something that we want to move into the bond program because of the lifespan of some of these pieces,” Wilson said in December.

Beyond cost, board member Dorothy Martinez asked Andress in December what the safety differences were between the surfaces. He noted some might be slightly safer than others, but injuries are unavoidable to a certain extent.

“You’re still going to have accidents no matter what surface you have down there,” he said. “It’s like somebody walking [in this board room] and tripping and falling 10 times and not getting hurt and the next time you fall you’re going to break an arm.”

During Tuesday’s board meeting, several board members took time to explain how important it is to play in order to learn. The motion to go forward with the $337,312 needed to renovate Evers Park and Rivera playgrounds was approved unanimously Tuesday evening.

Board members Martinez and Jeanetta Smith were not present for the vote.

Staff writer Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe contributed to this report.

MARSHALL REID can be reached at 940-566-6862 and via Twitter at @MarshallKReid.

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