By Celine Klosterman
BURLINGTON — Gone is splinter-inducing wooden playground equipment. In its place are colorful monkey bars, a slide and a rock-climbing wall.
Students at Notre Dame Elementary School enjoyed those features and others during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new playground June 18. Perched on steps and swings painted in blue and gold – Notre Dame’s colors — children watched as Father Bruce DeRammelaere blessed the equipment that their school provided after three years of fundraising.
The playground replaced equipment that was moved from an old church to Notre Dame when the elementary school opened in 1997, said Angie Prottsman, president of the Home and School Association. The wooden play structures no longer met safety standards, and three years ago a bad splinter sent one child to the hospital, she said. That injury prompted the association to begin fundraising for new equipment.
Community donations, grants, annual school Fun Fests and other events provided $55,000 to buy a new playground and replace pea gravel with a rubber surface, Prottsman said. That surface “is probably the safest thing out there.” Pea gravel retained dirt and water after a rainfall, requiring students to sometimes stay inside for recess. But rainwater dissipates quickly on the rubber, she said.
Supervised by a representative of Nebraska-based retailer Outdoor Recreation Products, volunteers spent 16 hours over two days installing the equipment in early June. Most of the rubber surface was installed later, though Notre Dame will raise funds this fall to finish surfacing under the swings.
“This is a huge accomplishment,” Prottsman said. “When the whole school comes together to build the playground with their own hands, it gives you a pretty good feeling.”
Notre Dame Elementary had 173 students in fall 2011 in kindergarten to fifth grade.