KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — District officials with Knox County Schools are looking at policies on funding its playgrounds. Currently, the cost of playground construction, subsequent maintenance and replacement are not included as part of the district’s budget. That leaves it to the school’s students and their families to fundraise for. A county leader, parent and school principal are pushing for a change.
Knox County Commissioner Larsen Jay has noted the need for playground funds at recent school board meetings. He feels the burden should not be on the student’s families to raise money for playground construction and updates. Instead, he said he would like that money raised put toward other needs.
“I just want those dollars to end up in the classroom or to support our teachers and not necessarily on a piece of equipment,” Jay began. “I just think we can change the culture and we can change this community and we can say that this is important and outdoor spaces are really important for the health and wellness of our children.”
As for the Sunnyview Primary School in Knox County, the principal of the school and a PTA member walked WATE 6 News through their playground. They pointed out rusted spots and noted that one of the slides was removed in the last year because it was found unsafe for the students.
Principal Sydney Upton spoke about how these playgrounds play a major part in her student’s day.
“They have this whole playground to get out and get exercise, they get to be with their friends,” said Upton. “They just enjoy it.”
Sunnyview PTA member Brandy Pressley also spoke about what this gives her kids during the school day.
“This is where they get to come at the end of the day or the middle of the day to relieve their stress, their anxiety,” Pressley said. “They get sunshine, they get vitamin D, they get to play with other kids, so it’s important that they have that out throughout the day.”
When asked what upgrades would be needed at the Sunnyview Primary playground, Upton and Pressley explained the playground would need to be completely replaced. They say the company that built the playground more than 20 years ago has since gone out of business and a separate company will not come in to replace single parts. They said the playground they want to install would cost more than $70,000. So far they have raised more than $38,000.
WATE 6 On Your Side News reached out to Knox County School Officials about the need for more playground funding. Their response is below, saying they are looking into making changes:
“While the district does not currently fund playgrounds, the superintendent has directed staff to develop standards so we can assess the cost of including playgrounds as part of new elementary school construction,” said Knox County Schools in a statement.