Whittier staff leads volunteer installation

       Whittier Elementary students had a big, colorful surprise when they came to school Nov. 13: new playground equipment. On Nov. 12, a loader lifts another playground unit into
place as the project nears completion. With pea gravel still
to be laid, the Whittier students will get to start using the equipment next week, according to Berg.
Westside Pioneer photo
       About two dozen school staffers and their family members, aided Saturday by 10 Air Force Academy cadets, had volunteered over the three-day weekend (Nov. 10-12, including Veterans Day), assembling and installing an assortment of slides, pads, decks, climbers, crawl-throughs, ladders and diggers in front of the school.
       The new toys enlarge and upgrade a 3,600-square-foot playground that previously consisted of equipment at least 20 years old - some of which was unsafe, according to Principal Marlys Berg. Having the new equipment in place “is just totally awesome,” she said.
       The project was funded with about $40,000 in 2005 bond issue school-discretionary funds. About $7,000 was saved on installation costs by the school people doing most of the work themselves, she noted. Professional oversight was provided by District 11 landscape foreman Bob Purvine and two district subcontractors.
       “The kids were so excited about it when they saw it,” commented school administrative assistant Lisa Kadlec, who was part of the three-day volunteer work crew. “They didn't know it was coming .”
       Now, with the surprise, comes a lesson in patience. At an all-school assembly the morning of Nov. 13, Berg had to tell her students that the playground could not be used for another week. The concrete has to finish setting, and then pea gravel needs to be poured over the area, she explained.
       “I think the kids are doing OK,” she said after the assembly. “They're excited, but they know it's a safety thing. They went 'Awww,' but they know they're going to be able to use it eventually.”
       An informal playground opening ceremony is anticipated for Monday or Tuesday, Nov. 19 or 20.
       The playground is normally where the lower grades play, but the older students will be allowed to try it out during their recess times as long as they want to, Berg said.
       The only downside to the weekend project was that Saturday night, Nov. 10 a district-owned Bobcat loader was stolen from the site. According to Berg, she had the key, but the thieves (who even coolly went to the trouble of removing the forks that were on the machine and installing the blade lying nearby) were still able to get it started and drive it away. Police had not yet located the unit by mid-week.

Westside Pioneer article