Parent asks about park funding for school play structure
By Karen Brainard
Citing safety issues, a Barnett Elementary School parent presented a new project for funding consideration at the Parks and Recreation Subcommittee meeting Aug. 20 — replacing a 21-year-old wooden playground structure.
The subcommittee of the Ramona Community Planning Group has been reviewing projects for Park Lands Dedication Ordinance (PLDO) funding, which totals about $648,000 for Ramona. The funds come from park fees that are collected when building permits are issued and can only be used for parkland acquisition and development in Ramona that is primarily for active recreational uses. Last month, the subcommittee composed a priority list of seven projects to be considered for PLDO funds.
Denise Drum, the Barnett Elementary parent volunteer, said the wooden playground structure is bordering on not being structurally sound due to the age and type of material.
The playground, which is on Ramona Unified School District-owned property, is open to the public during off-school hours.
With over 500 children at the school, Drum said the play structure needs to be demolished “because it is not safe for the children of Barnett.” Drum said she and parent volunteer Breenna Purcell started raising money for a new playground structure 1-1/2 years ago. Through grassroots efforts they have raised $3,800 and have received in-kind donations that would bring the total to about $7,500. The total estimate to demolish and remove the structure, and purchase and install a new one is about $95,500.
Drum said she has talked with Ramona Unified School District Assistant Superintendent David Ostermann and he is supportive.
Ostermann told the Sentinel that the structure was due for replacement in the school district’s failed bond effort last November.
“By no means is it ‘unsafe’ — anymore than any other playground structure which may be brand new,” he said in an email reply to the Sentinel inquiry.
According to Ostermann, a few years ago playground safety consultants from the San Diego County Office of Education visited school sites to do playground inspections. The concerns of Barnett’s, he said, is that some components are made of stainless steel and the surface can become hot with direct sunlight, and the structure is made of wood, which ages over time and needs such maintenance as refinishing and sanding. Ostermann said the district is looking for funding to replace and upgrade the equipment.
At the meeting, Parks and Rec Subcommittee members Kim Lasley and Dawn Perfect, who are also school board members, asked Drum several questions about the project.
Although the subcommittee sent seven projects to county staff to be reviewed for PLDO funding, Subcommittee Chair Jim Cooper said most likely not all will be ready to start this year.
“There is an opportunity to take those that are more shovel-ready and move them through the process,” he said.
Cooper asked Drum to be the project “champion” and suggested she come back with a presentation.
“In my world a champion is someone who shepherds the project from beginning to end,” he explained.
Drum said she plans on giving a presentation of the project at the next subcommittee meeting, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 16 in Ramona Community Center.
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