Elementary school without play area | SierraSun.com

Elementary school without play area

--by Doug SlaterStudents at Truckee Elementary reach for a ball in the "mud pit."
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Some call it the “dust bowl.” Others, the “snow heap.” Still others, the “mud pit.”

Regardless of the name, the students of Truckee Elementary are in desperate need of a new playing field.

Currently, students spend recesses tearing around on a 22,000 square foot patch of dirt — inhaling dust, tripping on rocks and bruising themselves when they fall on the unforgiving surface.

“That’s just what happens during the few months out of the year when students can actually play on the field,” says fifth grade teacher Renee Arington.

More days out of the school year than not, teachers are forced to close off the field after ice, snow and mud render the area unsafe to play on.

“We go through a lot of cones and caution tape here,” Arington said, shaking her head.

Recently, a group of Arington’s students decided to take it upon themselves to make sure this year would be the mud pit’s last.

Fifth-graders Kevin Decker and Brent Welsh, with the help of other students and teachers, prepared a multimedia presentation of digital photos and commentary chronicling the sordid condition of their play area.

Last week, they brought that presentation, dubbed, “Our Terrible Grass,” before the school board in hopes they might convince the district to move forward with its proposed plan for replacement of the current surface with artificial turf.

“We’re here tonight because we really don’t like our grass very much,” Decker said.

More than 25 students, parents and teachers from Truckee Elementary were in attendance in support of Decker and Welsh.

Members of the Education Specialization, or Ed. Spec., Committee at the school first started exploring the option a new field last summer.

In February of this year, the group took a “field trip” to see the variety of surfaces that were available to them.

According to project manager, Rob Koster, in the district’s Facilities and Construction department, an synthetic product, “Field Turf,” was the most desirable option.

“It was the most asethetically pleasing and the most uniform underfoot,” Koster said.

He also noted that artifical turf would withstand both the harsh winters and the wear and tear from the 700-plus students that use the area each day much better than grass or sod, which has to be replaced each year. Maintenance on field turf would also be minimal.

“I’ve seen the school attempt four separate sod installations and each time it has failed,” Arington said. “We’ve also looked at asphalt, but that will lead to even more injuries and make our school even uglier.”

She also said that the school has different groups that are willing to help finance the artificial turf, whereas, groups like the Truckee Donner Recreation and Parks District have said they will not finance a sod installation because of past failures.

The primary concern with the material is that possible snow removal difficulties that could arise.

“As it currently stand, during winter months all snow is moved off of the hardscape (asphalt), onto the softscape (playing field), due to the limited physical space at the school,” Koster said. “Moving the snow onto the synthetic material could possibly damage it, especially because of the debris that collects in snow.”

With no place to move snow, especially during a heavy winter, that could mean having to truck snow out of the area — a costly undertaking.

“This would really only be a problem for a couple of years, however, until the new [Transportion, Maintenance, and Operations Facility] is complete, and we’ve got a lot more space to work with,” Koster said.

Koster said the school was exploring solutions to the snow removal problem and feels they will find a solution.

“We calculated that we’d be able to get a lot more play days out of the synthetic material than the sod — as many as 40 days,” he said. “We’ve also got the funding for the project from Measure C.”

As of last week, Koster said he was going over various proposals and plans for the $264,000 project and hopes to keep moving on schedule: going out for bids in June, awarding a contract in July and having the new field installed by August.

The students are keeping their fingers crossed.

“We’d be so thankful if we could get this new field,” commented one of Arington’s fifth-graders. “We just want a fun, safe place to play.”