School board assesses the issue of funding for the project

Westridge Elementary School parents requested a chance to speak before the Lake Oswego School District board about safety issues at the school playground, and they got their wish.

Parents crowded into the conference room in the district Administration Building earlier this month. Several parents testified in favor of district funding for a playground to replace the existing play structure, which does not meet current safety guidelines, according to a school district report.

The board at a March 11 meeting said it supports Westridge Parent Teacher Student Organization’s playground project but did not grant a request for funds. The board did not say it would give the $75,000 that playground supporters asked for at its May 20 meeting. The board is investigating past practices regarding playground repair funding to inform its decision.

The equipment is old, the playground floods and it’s overcrowded because of elementary school consolidations, Westridge parent Chris Barhyte said.

The proposed new playground would include an outdoor amphitheater, a replacement play structure, a separate climbing structure, better drainage, a rubberized play surface and a covering for the rainy season.

Board member Teri Oelrich said the requested donation seems steep: “I look at a number like $75,000 — that’s a teacher.”

Barhyte said the PTSO is seeking funds from school excise tax revenue, which goes to facilities, not personnel.

“We’re contributing quite a bit of money and effort into this plan,” Barhyte said.

Barhyte said the PTSO has raised more than $129,236 for the $335,600 project. The nonprofit group received a matching grant from PlayCore playground equipment company for funds of up to $70,000. Grant dollars must be used to buy the equipment before July 31.

Other schools also have old playground equipment, and so the board asked district staff to do a comparison of school playgrounds.

School board member Bob Barman asked how much it would cost to fix the flooding problem.

District staff agreed to look into what type of financial support it has given for playground equipment and infrastructure, including drainage and how much this project’s infrastructure could cost. Barhyte said the drainage could cost about $35,000 to $40,000.

School board members also wanted to ensure the new Westridge playground complies with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. It will, Baryhte said.

Barman and other board members said they will be visiting Westridge to see the overcrowding and other issues for themselves.

The board asked district officials to report their findings at a meeting in June.

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