Three elementary schools in line for playground upgrades

Sunday, February 3, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:19 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Elementary school playgrounds at Lee, New Haven and Shepard Boulevard are going to be improved through funds from the Parks and Recreation Department.

COLUMBIA — The playgrounds at Lee, New Haven and Shepard Boulevard elementary schools are about to get significant face-lifts, courtesy of the city's Parks and Recreation Department.

The Columbia City Council on Monday night approved an ordinance appropriating about $25,000 for playground upgrades. The ordinance was on the consent agenda, which is reserved for items the council is expected to approve without discussion.

Past playground projects

Columbia schools that have benefited from playground projects funded by the city in past years are:

  • Benton and Field elementary schools in 2000.
  • West Boulevard Elementary School in 2002.
  • Parkade Elementary School in 2004.
  • Mill Creek Elementary School in 2005.
  • Shepard Boulevard Elementary School in 2006.
  • Blue Ridge Elementary School in 2007.
  • Russell Boulevard Elementary School in 2007.
  • Ridgeway Elementary School in 2007.
  • Parkade Elementary School in 2008.
  • Fairview Elementary School in 2009.
  • Derby Ridge Elementary School in 2010.
  • Grant Elementary School in 2011.
  • West Junior High School in 2012.

Source: Columbia Parks and Recreation Department

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This year's projects are a continuation of a program that began in the late 1990s and is funded by the city's parks sales tax.

“It was created with the desire to develop neighborhood playgrounds,” Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood said of the program. “It is a win for both parties because the public is able to use these playgrounds or neighborhood parks after hours.” 

In all but two years since 1998, the city has given money to Columbia Public Schools for playground projects. 

Peter Stiepleman, assistant superintendent of elementary education for Columbia Public Schools, said the the city and the district are being good stewards of public money and property.

“If the public schools and the Parks and Recreation Department were to spend taxpayer money to build separate facilities, it would cost a great deal of money and require repairs and replacements at a faster rate,” Stiepleman said. “Essentially, we’ve found a winning combination, which benefits the community.”

Under the program, the city will provide money for construction, but the school district assumes responsibility for maintenance.

Stiepleman said schools are chosen each year after an inventory of playground equipment and an assessment of needs. Projects planned for this year are:

  • Lee Elementary: Spend $13,000 to $15,000 to replace playground equipment that's more than 20 years old.
  • New Haven Elementary: Construct a new walking and running track that will be 10 feet wide and 1,300 feet long. The new gravel track will replace a cinder track that is overgrown with weeks. The project will cost about $8,000.
  • Shepard Boulevard Elementary: Construct a new baseball and softball backstop and make improvements to the existing one. The anticipated cost is $4,000.

Lee Elementary PTA member Amy Sarver said the news was unexpected.

“Lee is very lucky to have partnerships with the city and with city departments,” Sarver said. “This is huge for our school. I can’t wait to see what they do.”

Lee Principal Karen Burger said parents and students shouldn't have to wait long to find out exactly what planners have in mind for their playground.

“The designers haven’t been here yet,” Burger said. “What we know for sure is we will replace a piece of equipment built in 1986."

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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