A new playground will be available for preschool and kindergarten students to use at the new Early Learning Center building next fall.
ELC principal Kirk Ryan said there was a committee formed that met over four months to discuss ideas for the new ELC playground at the West Liberty School District’s Board of Education meeting Monday, March 20. The committee researched the playgrounds in the community, looked at magazines for ideas and looked at what other schools have. They focused on the preschool to kindergarten ages.
“We compiled all those ideas and sent it out to three different companies,” Ryan added. “But the big thing also was applying for grants, trying to get money because playgrounds are expensive and they have only gone up since COVID.”
The grant applications focused on inclusivity because the committee wanted to make sure anyone could access the playground, especially the students in wheelchairs.
After the bids were received, the committee looked through all of them and rated them from one to three, Ryan said.
Boland Recreation’s playground was over budget and would take 48 weeks to get the equipment in, he said. The installation would happen after school started.
“While they were really easy to work with and we liked their design the time really kind of took them out of it as well as the budget,” Ryan added.
American Playground submitted several different designs and came in under budget. However, a lot of the items the committee wanted adjusted in the design the other companies couldn’t such as the monkey bars.
“They could have just taken that off but they couldn’t add anything to that,” Ryan said.
The committee decided Rainbow of the Heart in Grimes was the best company to work with because the company was able to accommodate all the ELC playground needs, he said. The company also came in under budget.
The original budget was $130,000. The grants of $50,000 from the Ryan Trust and $15,000 from West Liberty made it possible for more areas that were inclusive to students needs.
ELC Nurse Kayla Morrison was one of the playground committee members. She told the board of education members there were several pieces added to the playground for sensory play, which is a developmental goal for the preschool and elementary students.
Morrison still would like to add a few pieces to the playground.
“In my dream playground it has wheelchair accessible wheelchair ramps but each ramp was very expensive,” she said.
There is a merry go round that will be accessible for students in wheelchairs to use, Morrison said.
Musical instruments will be available for all the students to use, a tunnel to crawl through as a sensory tool, a little house with a bench inside it and a tricycle go round.
“So the kids can pedal and exert a lot of that good energy they need to use,” Morrison said.
The ELC is working with the local area education association’s speech pathologist to have all weather all-purpose communication board diagram for students to use to talk about where they want to go on the playground, Morrison said.
Board of Education member Rebecca Vargas asked Morrison and Ryan if all fundraising was done for the ELC playground. Morrison said they were still looking into applying for other grants, especially since the elementary playground would be a project happening soon.
Morrison also said she had one item in particular she would like the school playground to have.
“I really want to get one of those wheelchair gliders,” Morrison said.
The cost for this item is almost $50,000, she added.
Board of education member Jeff Laughlin asked Ryan if the chosen bid included the cost for the groundwork to be done. Ryan said it did include everything else but the cost of building the concrete pad for it.
Board of Education member Ed Moreno asked Ryan if there were any plans for the old playground equipment. Ryan said there were some pieces they could bring over to be installed such as a buddy bench that is in storage currently. There weren’t plans for any of the older pieces though.
The bid from Rainbow of the Heart for the new ELC playground was approved unanimously by the board of education.