CHICOPEE — The School Committee discussed an update on the Bowie Elementary School playground and the accessibility of all the public school playgrounds during its Feb. 7 meeting.

Concerns regarding safety and compliance of the dated playground at Bowie Elementary School were raised during the Dec. 20 School Committee meeting.

As those concerns came in, Superintendent Marcus Ware said they worked with a vendor, CMJ Construction, who conducted inspections of the Chicopee playgrounds.

Following the inspection, a report was conducted and sent to the district.

Ware said there was nothing that is concerning as far as unsafe or need to be shutting down of our playgrounds but that recommendations were made that included 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.

Chicopee Public Schools Maintenance Director Scott Chapdelaine shared that the installation of the rubber mat that was needed to reach ADA compliance has been completed and a damaged slide has also been replaced.

Since Bowie Elementary Schools playground became ADA compliant, the School Department and School Committee wanted an inspection completed on all the other playgrounds to figure out how to make all the Chicopee public school playgrounds ADA compliant.

Chapdelaine said there is a plan in motion with a landscape architect who specializes in playground structures to do a full ADA inspection in nine of the playgrounds for $33,500.

The one school playground not included in the study is Barry Elementary School, but Chapdelaine said the city currently oversees Barry Elementary Schools playground and that the Planning Department has already done the ADA inspection for that playground.

“Some of the decking, some of the rubber that is on the decking is wearing away, so they are recommending replacing the decking, but everything is safe there. There is nothing that said the kids can’t play on the playground, it’s just recommendations they made for all our playgrounds, so we are slowly going through the process of getting all the inspections and repairs lined up,” he said.

Bowie School is the oldest playground which was installed around 1998 and Chapdelaine explained why a lot of the playground were not built to be ADA compliant.

Chapdelaine said they have a list of recommendations that they are working on right now including a quote for about $12,000 for recommended repairs at Bowie playground.

He said, “A lot of the ADA laws didn’t happen until 1990, so putting in a playground around 1999, a lot of the ADA laws really didn’t make it over to the playground structures until 2007, 2008. A lot of our playgrounds are not set up that way because of the age of our playgrounds.”

Part of the $12,000 will be to change the structure at Bowie Elementary School to put a transition area and access to that area where a handicapped individual can be placed on the playground.

Outside of the Bowie school inspection, current finding in the other playgrounds include wood chips in low areas that weren’t raked out, loose bolts or nuts and deteriorating rubber coating on the metal.

“We did what we could to make it safe and they’re safe now but now it’s getting into what they suggest be replaced in the future,” Chapdelaine said.

Chapdelaine said based on the age of their playgrounds and the constant change of ADA equipment, he would like to see a 15-year replacement plan for each playground.

The School Committee and Chapdelaine also discussed the possibility of the Parks and Recreation Department overseeing and maintaining the school playgrounds.

“I can’t speak for the Parks and Recreation Department. I do know that normally my custodians and staff at the School Department, we may be down one or two custodians at a time, so I have basically at all times a full staff. Parks Department, I can’t say that. They’re always down eight to 12 people throughout the Parks Department and I can’t imagine them taking on nine playgrounds without hiring a crew for them.”

The Parks and Recreation Department are currently responsible for taking care of approximately 30 parks and six cemeteries, according to Chapdelaine and Mayor John Vieau.

Vieau added, “I already had the discussion with the superintendent of parks and rec about a month ago when this was first brought to our attention, and we are short staffed. We are trying to find innovative and technological since they are down crew members. As just for saying today for taking over the nine parks, it’s just not possible.”

Ware ended with saying that he and a team are looking at the costs of different school projects and will be presenting an update and plan to address those soon.

Ware added, “You can look forward to a comprehensive report from my findings from my entry plan as well as things not included in my entry plan but was on my listening learn tour and I would like to inform you and make my recommendations and the committee will decide how to move forward.”

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