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Design picked for Kidspace replacement

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury voters in April will be asked to endorse a new playground design to replace the popular Kidspace structure at Mary Hogan Elementary School, a project that would be installed next summer at a cost of $224,723.
The ID-4 school board, through its playground subcommittee, has spent several years planning for replacement of Kidspace, a wooden play structure installed back in 1987 with the help of around 1,300 community volunteers. Mary Hogan students and children from throughout the Middlebury area continue to enjoy Kidspace, but it is showing increasing signs of wear and tear and has already out-paced its anticipated 20-year lifespan.
Mary Hogan Elementary Principal Tom Buzzell noted multiple inspections of the structure since 2000 have found deficiencies that were ultimately corrected. Among them: application of a “tropical hardwood” contact surface to the pressure-treated lumber, numerous carpentry and maintenance repairs, and sealing various joints within the apparatus.
“It has significantly reduced splintering issues on that surface,” Buzzell said of the repairs.
But an inspection in 2012 yielded a recommendation that Kidspace be replaced. The ID-4 board took that advice to heart and, this past October, sent a request for proposals from companies willing to install a new, innovative and safe playground for a budget of less than $225,000.
School officials requested that the proposals reflect such elements as:
•  An interconnected series of low towers, platforms and ramps, with multiple slides and overhead climbers, as a means of entering and leaving the structure, accessible to children (ages 3 through 12) of varying mobility abilities.
•  Places to run, hang, climb or hide — with a variety of heights, sizes, spaces and angles.
•  Resiliency, given Vermont weather over the course of a year.
The school received two promising design submissions that were vetted by the playground subcommittee. That panel recommended the proposal from Pettinelli & Associates, a Burlington-based company that has built scores of playgrounds throughout the state, including structures in East Middlebury, Leicester, Vergennes and Shoreham.
“It meets all existing codes and regulations for playground equipment,” Buzzell said, adding the proposed structure has many features that children will find interesting and that will still allow for effective adult supervision while children are playing on it.
Jennifer Bleich, an ID-4 board member and leader of the playground subcommittee, also gave high marks to the Pettinelli proposal.
“We feel this is the best and most effective use of money for (a playground structure) we believe is best for our kids,” Bleich said. “It’s clear to us we need to get the Kidspace structure out.”
The proposed playground structure would occupy an area of 93 feet by 76 feet. It would be fabricated primarily of powder-coated steel, with various plastic components that would include slides and climbing hand-holds, according to Buzzell. Children would recognize main features of the playground design, such as the inter-connected series of ramps, bridges and towers with multiple slide and climbing elements. Plans also call for a “significant number” of rope climbers.
ID-4 school directors on Dec. 18 unanimously approved the Pettinelli proposal. Middlebury voters will be asked at the annual ID-4 meeting in April to endorse the playground and its funding source: a $225,000 transfer from the school’s education reserve fund. If voters approve the plan, Pettinelli will install the playground next summer. Pettinelli is proposing to charge $176,223 for the structure; $27,000 for related site work; $12,000 for surfacing; and $9,500 for demolition and removal of Kidspace.
School officials hope voters will approve the new playground.
“I see it as a great structure that will serve Mary Hogan Elementary students for years to come,” said Buzzell.

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