Snow Creek Elementary School parents have taken to social media to express their disapproval of a decision to remove playground equipment at the school.
The Snow Creek Parent Teacher Organization worked for the past nine months with Snow Creek Elementary Principal Ken Grindstaff and a building maintenance worker to obtain approval to purchase and install playground equipment that included a rock climbing wall, swinging ropes and a fireman’s pole.
In an Aug. 21 letter to parents Grindstaff stated there was a miscommunication between himself and the school board office regarding authorization, which the PTO said it had to build the equipment.
Franklin County Schools Superintendent Mark Church said the equipment did not meet national playground safety standards and was not purchased from approved vendors. He said the parents went through the proper channels to obtain permission and such a decision would not need to come before the Franklin County Board of Supervisors; however, there was miscommunication between the principal and the building maintenance office.
In his letter, Grindstaff stated, “The equipment purchased, although fine for home use, was not designed for rigorous school usage … Using the playground as constructed could present a safety issue for our students.”
Snow Creek Elementary PTO President Heather Badger said the letter was too little, too late. It came out only after parents had been told the equipment would be removed and auctioned off. After learning that, parents went to the school Tuesday afternoon to remove what wasn’t bolted to the ground before school maintenance workers dismantled the rest.
“Central office notified the school yesterday to let them know they were coming today to remove the playground and confiscate the items,” Badger said. “They were then told that those items would be up for auction in the county bus auction.”
Badger said as parents were dropping their kids off for school Wednesday morning, maintenance workers were working to remove the posts that held the equipment in place.
While it did not address what would happen to the equipment, Grindstaff’s letter stated, “The decision was made to remove it based on the safety and well-being of our students and to hopefully recover some of the expenses.”
According to PTO member Jarett Amos, the equipment cost $3,500 and was paid for and installed by PTO members, only after working with Grindstaff to obtain approval. Badger said the PTO will try to return some of the equipment.
“We are going to attempt to return what we can, but unfortunately the posts and Trex covering — items central office told us we could use and were purchased to commercial spec — will not be able to be returned,” Badger said.
She added that the county never requested the paperwork regarding the equipment prior to Church’s decision on Tuesday. She explained that what was so upsetting to parents was that she felt the school administration showed “no desire to work with us to get the proper attachments but rather threaten confiscation and auction.
“We don’t know how much we will be able to get back in our costs, and it is very sad for our school.”
Grindstaff’s letter said the removal of the equipment should not reflect on the “hard work of our PTO and parents who constructed the playground. We will diligently work with the PTO and school board office to construct playground equipment that is safe for our students and that can be used for many years to come.”