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CHICOPEE — Concerns regarding safety and compliance of the dated playground at Bowie Elementary School were raised during the Dec. 20 School Committee meeting, however, Superintendent Dr. Marcus Ware assured that inspections were done and there is nothing to be concerned about.

School Committee member Sandra Peret requested that the School Committee receive an update on the Bowie School playground and review the Americans with Disabilities Act compliance regarding playgrounds on school property.

Peret said this item had originally been discussed during a City Council Education Subcommittee meeting, with some members of the School Committee in attendance.

She noted that the School Department also received correspondence regarding the playground’s ADA compliance and that fines might be imposed on the city for noncompliance for accessibility.

To provide some background, Ware shared that many constituents have reached out wondering about the safety and the actual quality of the playground, acknowledging that it “probably exceeds the 20-year-old mark,” he said.

As those concerns came in, Ware said they worked with a vendor, CMJ Construction, that came out and began doing inspections of the Chicopee playgrounds.

He emphasized that the safety and security of the playgrounds is taken “very seriously.”

Following the inspection, a report was conducted and sent to the district. Currently, Ware said it is being reviewed. “In that report, there is nothing that is concerning as far as unsafe or need to be shutting down of our playgrounds,” he shared.

He went on to say that clear recommendations were made. “Some of their purview was checking to make sure bolts are tight, minor fixes that could be done at the time of a tune up, checking for safety concerns such as damage or work pieces, safety zone infringement, appropriate safety surface worn chains,” he said, along with a report on the inspections they do.

In the past, Ware said Chicopee has participated in doing inspections, so he and Chicopee Public Schools Maintenance Director Scott Chapdelaine had a conversation about restarting those so that they can share the report with the public.

At the time of the meeting, Ware noted that the report was just completed, and he will have it as part of the subcommittee facilities update and also bring it to the full committee for everyone to see.

“I just wanted to assure the public — I read the report and not that there’s work we can do, but there’s nothing in disrepair except for the slide,” Ware said.

He shared that one of the things constituents had reached out about was pieces of the playground — more particularly the slide that had a hole in it. Ware said the slide was ordered and delivered, but it was missing parts. Once the correct parts are received, Ware said the community will receive another update.

On the other hand, the installation of the rubber mat that is needed to reach ADA compliance has been completed. Ware said the communication has gone back to the state — Massachusetts Compliance Office around the ADA compliance — and Chicopee ADA Compliance Officer Stephen Zajchowski.

Ware noted that the next steps are receiving parts for the slide and once those are in, updating that so the children have a safe slide to play with.

“A lot of what doesn’t come to the light happens behind [the] scenes,” said Ware.

He noted that he would continue to provide the public with updates and have Chapdelaine come before the committee to do so as well. Ware said he would like to show that he is being transparent about any of the concerns constituents have, so that some concerns can be put to rest.

When asked about cost, Ware said the inspection alone was over $2,900. The rubber mat cost around $49,000 and the slide is around $7,000.

Chapdelaine said he has been working on looking at all the playgrounds throughout the district, however, Bowie School is the oldest playground which was installed around 1998.

“Although ADA’s been around since the early 90s, they really didn’t branch out to playgrounds until later in their time,” he said. Several laws have also changed over the years.

Looking at the way most playgrounds are set up, Bowie is lacking the “transition area.” To be ADA compliant, Chapdelaine explained that rubber mating must go to a transition area, where a handicapped individual can be placed on the playground.

He went on to say that the reason the cost of Bowie was so much because there is no transition area and every device had to have a rubber mat that goes to it.

Something Chapdelaine said he would like to discuss with Ware is potentially hiring a landscape architect who specializes in ADA compliance for playgrounds. With Bowie complete, Chapdelaine would like to look at the eight other playgrounds in the district and conduct a study to see what must be done to make those ADA compliant.

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