PTSO wants school district and city to help fund new equipment

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: ANALEIS WEIDLICH - Westridge students Julia Weidlich and Ewan Derosier spend time on the school play structure.A Lake Oswego elementary school play structure “does not meet current safety guidelines and should be considered for replacement,” states a school district report.

Neighbors and Parent Teacher Student Organization members say repairs to the Westridge Elementary School playground will not address safety issues related to the playground’s design, and it is more cost effective to build a new one. The playground also has drainage issues and is overcrowded because of elementary school consolidations and drainage issues, said Westridge parent Heather Derosier.

But, “the No. 1 issue is safety,” Derosier SUBMITTED PHOTO: ANALEIS WEIDLICH - Westridge Elementary School second-grader Julia Weidlich, front, and kindergartner Ellie Derosier play on the geodome at the school playground.

The PTSO wants monetary support from the Lake Oswego School District and the city for the new playground. It 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.

The PTSO has raised $45,000 for the $335,600 project, and the nonprofit group received a matching grant from PlayCore playground equipment company for up to $70,000. Grant dollars must be used to buy the equipment before July 31. If all of the funding comes in by June 10, the PTSO will be able to complete the whole project this summer.

The city budget committee will decide today whether to include $15,000 for the project in the budget it recommends to the Lake Oswego City Council. The council is scheduled to adopt the financial plan in June.

During a March 11 meeting, the school board unanimously supported the project but did not OK funding it. School board member Linda Brown said Tuesday that funding may be available in the future. Brown said the board plans to use the school excise tax revenue, which the Westridge PTSO wants to tap, for the Lakeridge High School stadium project. The stadium project addresses a disparity in facilities between the high schools, she said.

A real estate study, to be ready next January, also could change which elementary schools are open, she SUBMITTED GRAPHIC: HARPER HOUF PETERSON RIGHELLIS INC. - Construction on the entire Westridge Elementary School playground could be finished this summer if the PTSO can obtain enough funds.

“I don’t think it’s wise to invest in second tier projects at any of our elementary schools right now until we have the real estate evaluation done,” Brown said.

The school district’s safety report on the playground, completed this spring, recommended developing a long-term plan detailing how to upgrade the site.

Angie Baker, who lives in the area, said something needs to be done now. The playground is the only place for children to play in the neighborhood, and on one outing with her daughter, who was 4 at the time, the girl broke her left arm when she fell off of the climbing structure, Baker said.

The structure has the second-highest hazardous rating, which means it has conditions that are “life-threatening or can cause severe, permanent disability,” the safety report said.

The way the structure is designed is part of the problem, said Analeis Weidlich, PTSO co-president. The climbing bars in its interior are higher than 18 inches, a fall hazard.

The geodome, which is made of a network of metal bars, also has the second-highest hazardous rating because of protruding joints that could snag on clothing.

“Fall protection is severely deficient,” the survey report says.

Drainage issues cause flooding, which affects the geodome and other play equipment.

“There’s caution tape around the geodome during the flooding,” Baker said.

The district plans to remove the geodome this summer but not to replace it. The geodome and some monkey bars are from when the school was built in 1980. The play structure is from the early 1990s, Weidlich said.

Parent Britt Weiler said the school district should not remove the geodome without replacing it. There’s not enough play equipment to go around since Westridge’s population increased after the students from the now-closed Bryant and Palisades elementary schools moved in, Weiler said.

Two years ago this spring, there were 323 students, and this month there were 462 students, Westridge Principal Scott Lane said.

Lane said he understands the district has a finite amount of money, and he is not sure how the new playground fits into the budget plan. He approves of how the district is devoting personnel to helping the PTSO with the project, and Lane said parents are proactive.

Weidlich said parents already paid for the design and planning of the project and have collected a good deal of money, and now they need help bringing the project to fruition.

“It’s not just a school park: It’s a community park,” she said.

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