Parents pressing gift of plastic slide

February 07, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

Steel is sturdy, but plastic is cheaper and has an added benefit -- it won't burn tiny backsides on sunny days.

But plastic is not welcome on school playgrounds in Anne Arundel County.

Bewildered? So are parents at Davidsonville Elementary School, who want to pay for a plastic sliding board for the equipment-bereft playground but were told they can't do it.

"The maintenance division frowns upon plastic slides," said Carol Mattingly, chairwoman of the Davidsonville PTA playground equipment committee, which has raised $16,000 to buy new playground equipment. "But the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends plastic over stainless steel, and the plastic slides are less than half the price."

Steel is preferable, however, from the point of view of maintenance workers for one simple reason.

"Steel is more difficult to vandalize than plastic and therefore more durable," said Ralph Luther, director for support services for Anne Arundel County public schools. "Plastic can be hit with a hammer and cracked or chipped, or it can be burned or melted."

All the county's schools that have sliding boards have steel ones, he said, as school board policy dictates.

In frustration, the Davidsonville parents took their plea directly to the school board and asked the seven members to consider changing the policy, or at least allowing an exemption. Mr. Luther said that in response, a meeting has been scheduled today "to address the issue."

Seesaws and swings are among the other types of equipment banned from school playgrounds. Children can be injured by the moving parts.

With that in mind, the children at Davidsonville began compiling their own wish list for equipment by writing essays and drawing pictures.

"What we want to buy is a full play system that's all attached and has decks, slides and climbers," said Mrs. Mattingly. "We also want overhead bars that hang from chains, rather than a ladder kind, because we feel it would be a little more challenging, and fun, for the children."

The children also want a "clatter bridge," pieces of wood a few inches apart that are connected by well-covered chains.

Jeanne Paglee, the school's principal, said the new equipment is important to the school's 505 students.

"We really only have four or five really old and dilapidated pieces of equipment," said Mrs. Paglee.

"We understand that once it's put on school property, the equipment becomes the property of the school system and they're responsible for maintenance," Mrs. Mattingly said. "If maintenance finds a slide or piece of equipment they feel is cracked or unsafe, they can take it away -- which is what they've been doing here already. They just haven't replaced any."

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