Last month, students and families braved the warm temperatures and flocked to a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new playground at Gresham’s Hollydale Elementary. After some remarks from Hollydale Principal Debra James and Gresham-Barlow School Board member Carla Piluso, children gleefully ran to enjoy the new swings, slides, and musical play features.
The new playground has been a long time coming for the Hollydale community, which has not had a full playground for nearly seven years. “As a school community we’re super excited for our kids,” said Principal James. “We’re getting everything in our dream list. Hollydale kids haven’t had a slide in six to seven years. Now, we’re going to have five slides.”
Modern Playgrounds for a Modern Education
The playground is one of five that are opening across the district. These playgrounds are funded through the Gresham-Barlow School Bond, approved by voters in November 2016. New or significant improvements are coming to playgrounds at Hogan Cedars, Powell Valley, Deep Creek, East Orient, Highland, as well as to the two brand new elementary schools opening at North and East Gresham. Hollydale Elementary is also the site of a campus expansion; construction begins next year on a new wing for the school that includes six new classrooms, as well as roof repairs and safety and security improvements throughout the facility.
Playground design has changed over the past couple decades. These design changes have been spurred by attempts to create more inclusive spaces for students of all abilities and ages to play.
“When we were kids, playgrounds were a little more straightforward,” said Justin Patterson. Patterson is a parks consultant with Northwest Playground Equipment, the construction company working with Gresham-Barlow on the design and installation of the district’s new playgrounds.
The new playground at Hollydale Elementary includes ADA-accessible structures, amenities for students on the autism spectrum, and musical features including drums and xylophones. “That’s a rich play experience” notes Patterson. “Kids can enjoy those instruments by themselves or together in a group. All that sound is enriching and takes our playgrounds to that next step.”
Patterson also explained that safe, soft surfaces are a major component of these new playgrounds. Gone are the days of students running around on asphalt, bark chips or sand. The new playground at Hollydale features a spongy surface that is much safer for active children.
Hollydale’s New Playground First of Many to Open, Receives High Marks
While the design of playgrounds may have changed over time, elementary school students seem to enjoy the playgrounds all the same.
Hollydale’s playground, located between the school and a city park, will receive significant use and attention from children of all ages, even during the summer months. “It’s a popular place for families to hang out.” said Principal James. “We’re happy for the community to have access to it.”
If the enthusiasm of the students present at the Hollydale Elementary ribbon-cutting ceremony is any indication, the new playgrounds will be very popular as they open across the district. All five schools are aiming to open their new playgrounds to students before the beginning of the school year this fall.
“A playground is a natural place to gather,” said Principal James. “I’m glad that, thanks to voters, we’ll have a natural place for families to gather and for a safe place for their kids to play.”