Mary Hogan Kidspace eyed for replacement

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury residents will be asked this spring to launch a multi-year makeover of Mary Hogan Elementary School’s playground facilities, including replacement of the popular Kidspace apparatus.
Residents at the annual ID-4 school district meeting in April will be asked to earmark up to $10,000 in education reserve money for Middlebury-based LandWorks to design a new playground plan for the recreation spaces along the northern and eastern borders of the Mary Hogan building.
That plan — to include citizen and school board input — is to include replacement of the wooden Kidspace structure, which was installed in 1987 with the help of around 1,300 community volunteers.
Tom Buzzell, Mary Hogan Elementary co-principal, explained that while Kidspace remains popular and well maintained, the structure is reaching its reasonable life expectancy.
“(Kidspace) is approaching its 24th year,” Buzzell said on Thursday. “Typically, a structure like Kidspace in the Northeast climate is going to serve 20 to 30 years.”
He noted the structure underwent significant renovations in 2000, and ID-4 keeps an annual budget line item for Kidspace maintenance. But school district officials believe those maintenance costs will only get higher as the apparatus continues to age and weather.
“Kidspace is nearing its intended lifespan of 20-25 years and will need to be replaced as maintenance costs increase,” reads a Dec. 7 report issued by the ID-4 Facilities/Playground Committee. “This presents an opportunity to build a structure more in line with current safety guidelines and understanding of how children play, a playground for the second decade of the 21st century that meets the needs, dreams and values of our school and community.”
Buzzell said the new playground facilities will be planned to serve children who enjoy passive as well as active recreation. They will also be designed in a manner that will allow playground supervisors to keep close track of students as they dart around equipment.
“The ability to have good sight-lines will be essential,” Buzzell said.
If voters this spring agree to award LandWorks the design contract, a public process will ensue to allow residents to shape the look and feel of new equipment — which will represent a investment likely into the six figures, Buzzell noted. Plans call for a fund-raising and grant writing campaign to bankroll the costs of the new playground.
“We will move forward in a way that is cognizant of the fiscal challenges facing the state,” Buzzell said.
With that in mind, the playground project is likely to be phased in over a few years, according to officials.
Mary Hogan School board Chairwoman Lucy Schumer agreed, adding the proposed replacement of Kidspace should not be construed as a sleight to the playground that has served the community so well for more than two decades.
“The sentiment is, we want this to be as successful as their project was,” Schumer said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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