Purchasing playground equipment for a school is a large responsibility that’s often a task assumed by the PTA/PTO of each individual school district. And, it is a huge responsibility because important issues factor in when purchasing playgr
ound equipment for your school.
What type of equipment your PTO/PTA purchases depends upon what age children will be using the playground. Is the playground for a kindergarten, elementary or a middle school? The majority of playground equipment is purchased for children age two to five and for children age five to 12. This is true of many schools so that children of multiple ages have plenty of space that is not only age-appropriate – but safe and fun – for them to play on.
Kids of a young age, for example, need Plexiglas covering in some areas so they can be easily spotted if they’re near a blind spot inside the playground. Make sure
you know the ages that will be on your playground. But also, ensure that your older pre-teens will be adequately entertained by ha
ving enough exercise and entertainment on the playground.
Challenge all children with age-appropriate equipment. Make sure you have swings, slides, climbers and more so tha
t every child may experiment with play and learn new skillsets in the process.
How much can your PTO/PTA afford to spend on a playground? Most often fundraisers are necessary to garner enough funds to budget for such a cost. But what sort of fundraisers can raise enough money to afford something that costs more than $15,000 and up? Most school districts don’t have that sort o
f money in petty cash. And, maybe your current playground equipment is in such dire need that waiting two to three years is impossible. Maybe your kids need playground equipment within the year.
But thinking that your organization can raise enough money in one year of bake sales isn’t realistic. So think outside the box. Think silent auction. Think raffling donated goods. Think golf tournament. Think carnivals.
Start a plan and stick to it. Talk to previous PTO/PTA fundraisers and see what worked for them. Talk to parents who volunteer for the school and get their input. You need team players on your side for this project in order for it to work.
Besides, running too many fundraisers throughout the year kills parent involvement and will not raise the money you need. Most parents don’t get involved in a PTO/PTA to fundraise; they get involved to make a difference for the students and the school.
So, create a budget at the beginning of the year and don’t forget to include installation and shipping charges of the playground into that cost. Target your fundraising to the amount of money you need for your playground. Find out how fast you need to raise it. What are your volunteer resources? What kind of fundraiser will your community support? Think big. Think big playground equipment that will last for generations because of the hard work you do today.
Assess your location
After you fundraise for your playground, and long before it’s delivered, you will need to consider where you’re going to put it. You’ll need enough room to extend the safety surface six feet around the play equipment – possibly farther for swings and slides. Good drainage also is essential. Installation experts recommend a slope of 1 percent to 4 percent. Building on a dense soil like clay will most likely lead to drainage problems. Avoid windy areas with a lot of dust. Assess traffic patterns and other man-made and natural features that will affect your playground. If the playground company is not going to install the playground, you’ll need to make a few modifications to the area, even if it’s going to be a team effort consisting of specialists and volunteers.
Highly important is that fact that you’ll need a level site to make it free of any obstacles that might encroach upon the required fall zone for your design. DigTess (1-800-DIG-TESS) will call all utility companies that may have underground cables or piping running beneath the play area to mark where their cable runs might be. Call, and mark those areas immediately.
Once the utilities are marked, the installation of your commercial playground equipment can begin.
A major portion of buying a playground is ensuring that it meets all safety standards and that the ground cover adheres to security guidelines. This part is critical to the entire process. Before you’ve even purchased the playground equipment, you need to have already determined the depth of the surfacing you’re going to use so that the bottom of the piers are at the same elevation, relative to the surfacing.
May Recreation Playground Safety Information
By setting this elevation and “leveling” the bottom of the piers, all the posts end up at their proper finished elevation, and all the platforms are level. But worry not, your expert installers know all about this procedure and can inform you along the way.
Another important part of your school’s playground safety is what’s underneath it. Every year PTO/PTA groups across the country spend tens of thousands of dollars on new playground equipment. And, it’s a good investment, too. Playgrounds have improved tremendously over the years. Monkey bars coated with lead paint located above unforgiving asphalt have been replaced by equipment engineered for safety and child development.
Today’s playground equipment is carved from hard, durable plastic, metal and even wood. And the ground underneath a child’s foot should no longer be concrete but must be material made from crumbled rubber, pea-sized rock, sand, crumbled bark, or other type of material that helps to prevent slips and major accidents.
Purchasing a playground for children in your school district as a PTO/PTA member is not an easy task to undertake. It takes research, attention to detail, and dedication. But just remember that once you know the type of equipment, the budget you have to work with, location of the playground and what’s involved with keeping the kids safe while using the playground, it will all be a worthwhile project for your school district in the end.