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Durham Elementary opens new playground

The project involved a lot of effort by parents, staff and community members
by: Jaime Valdez, WORTH THE WAIT - Durham staff, students and parents plus school district officials gather in the chilly morning air for the dedication ceremony.

TIGARD - Durham Elementary students had to endure some cruel irony when their snazzy new playground opened Dec. 12.

Construction on the project was finished up the week before, but students were not allowed to play on the equipment until after the grand opening.

All the classes trooped outside to stand in the chilly air for the dedication ceremony, but when it was over, everyone had to go back to class and wait until their regular recess time to finally play on the structure.

New Principal Joyce Woods kicked off the ceremony by saying, 'This is an exciting day at Durham Elementary! Our students will play on this for years. It took lots and lots of work and lots of money.'

Woods introduced Tigard-Tualatin School District Superintendent Rob Saxton and other district officials as well as former Durham Principal Jim Pierce, who retired last year, before praising the 'terrific parents of Durham Elementary who worked a lot on planning for this.'

She introduced PSO President Carlene Merwin as well as Becki Pedersen, who was PSO president last year and coordinator of the playground project.

'We have a lot of people in the community who have worked hard on this, and some don't even have students here,' Joyce said.

The Tigard Breakfast Rotary Club previously contributed $2,300 toward construction of the new playground, and in attendance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony were President Kelly Rossi, and members Mike Hatfield, Ted Magnuson and Rick Rhodes.

Karyn Smith, branch manager of the Tigard/King City HomeStreet Bank, presented a giant check for $250 to Woods for the playground as well.

Referring to the school mascot, Woods said, 'Roadrunners, thumbs up if you think it's time to cut the ribbon and open the playground.'

To choose two students to help cut the ribbon, Woods dug deep in the school's 'gotcha' jar, where the 'gotchas' awarded to students by teachers and staff for doing good deeds are collected.

The lucky kids who represented the entire student body were fifth-grader Tyler Walker and first-grader Millie Webb.

Woods then invited everyone to count down from 10 to the moment of the ribbon cutting, which went off without a hitch.

Then came the bad news: 'I see a lot of you who think you're going to get to play on the new equipment now, but you'll have to wait until recess,' said Woods, who couldn't help but proclaim, 'We have the best play structure in the district.'

On the way into the reception held in the staff lounge, Pedersen said that the playground cost $111,000 and that about $20,000 still needed to be raised.

'We're doing an auction,' she said. 'As soon as the playground is paid off, we'll go on to our next project, which is to update the library and buy new books. There's always something that needs doing.'

Companies submitted bids to design and build the playground, and Durham chose Northwest Recreation, whose designer Jim Ringleberg came up with the idea of incorporating part of the old structure into the new one.

'We were able to use the wood pilings - reduce, reuse, recycle,' Pedersen said. 'The designer met with teachers and parents to hear what their needs were.'

Clean Water Services previously notified the school district that it would be closing Shaffer Lane, the access road to the school that runs across CWS property from 85th Avenue. The new access road will come into the school from Durham Road at the traffic light on 79th Avenue, right through the old playground.

Because the aging playground equipment could not be safely moved, a fund-raising drive was started to raise money for the new one.

The new playground is colorful and inviting, with a red barn, slides, lots of structures to climb on, a suspension bridge about 1 foot off the ground and a table with a canvas roof 'for the older girls who don't like to play on the equipment to have a place to sit,' Pedersen said.

The ground under the equipment is covered with bark chips, and a concrete path surrounds the playground.

Looking back at the colorful playground, Pedersen mused, 'This all started because I wanted to replace one structure in the old playground. When we started looking into it, we learned that the road was going to go through it, and a new playground would have to be built in a new location.'