By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
OTTUMWA — Thanks to the generosity of community members and organizations, Seton Catholic Elementary School students and neighborhood youths now have a safer place to play.
Over the summer, the school added a poured-in-place safety mat under the climbing equipment on the playground to replace a pea-gravel surface. That surface, according to school board president Richard Palen, “created safety issues in itself and was not the proper thickness for ‘fall height’ of the equipment, according to DHS regulations.”
To prepare the playground for the safety mat, a layer of concrete needed to be poured as a base. Total cost for the prep work, concrete and safety mat ran about $37,000, said Palen, who has two sons in attendance at Seton. Funds came via a grant from Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation, Seton’s Home and School organization fundraisers, monies raised from SCRIP certificates and private donations.
The school’s 50-year-old swing set and slide were also removed in the renovation because they no longer met insurance requirements for safety.
Palen noted that the playground equipment isn’t used just by students; neighborhood children also use it on a regular basis outside school hours.
The safety mat and removal of old equipment is the start of an ongoing project to improve the playground. A community organization, 100 Men on a Mission, offered $10,500 for future projects last month following a presentation that Palen made.
This money will help with the next steps of the playground improvement project, which include leveling the upper part of the playground and building a retaining wall. Palen was effusive in his gratitute toward the organization. “I really want them to know how much we appreciate them. We would be at a stall in our progress is we hadn’t received that money.”
The school will continue to do fundraisers and apply for grants to continue the playground improvement project. “We will then be adding in more play equipment as we continue to raise funds for the project,” Palen said.