Raising dough for playground at Guilderland Elementary

GUILDERLAND — The leaders of the Guilderland Elementary School PTA are serious about play.

They have just launched a cookie-dough sale, the latest in a series of fund-raisers for new playgrounds at the school.

Irene Jurek, who chairs the playground committee for the Parent-Teacher Association, paused for a moment Monday from her work assembling packets for the cookie-dough sale, to flip through reams of research that show the importance of play.

Topics ranged from the ability of students to concentrate better after they’ve exercised to the importance of recess for psycho-social reasons.
"In the classroom, the teacher is there," said Jurek. "In the playground, the children make the rules. They have to learn how to share, and take turns."
"If this playground needs to come down, all that would be left is open space for play," said PTA President Carmen Valverde. She also said that the new playgrounds will be accessible to students with handicaps.

Currently, the school has two playgrounds, built in the early 1980’s. The small playground is used by kindergartners and students in the programs run by the Board of Cooperative Educational Services. The large playground is used by students in first through fifth grades.
The playgrounds, said Jurek, "are at the end of their useful life."

The new small playground will cost about $38,000 and the new large playground will cost about $58,000. The women stressed that there is no money in the school-district budget for playgrounds.

Their hope is that the cookie-dough sale, which runs through March 23, will bring in the final funds needed for the kindergarten playground.
"At this point, we have $34,000," said Valverde. "We’re hoping to raise at least $3,000."

Arsenic concerns

The wood components in the playgrounds have caused concerns.

There are problems with bees and splinters, said Valverde.

Also, in 2003, the Consumer Product Safety Commission affirmed that arsenic-treated wood — meant to foil bugs and prevent rot — poses health risks to children, who frequently put their hands in their mouths. Arsenic can cause lung and bladder cancer.
"Kids and arsenic don’t mix," said Jurek.

Neil Sanders, the school district’s assistant superintendent for business, told The Enterprise earlier that several of the district’s schools have wooden play structures. He said the school playgrounds have not been tested for arsenic because there is no requirement to do so.

Suzanne Ackerman, a press officer for the federal Environmental Protection Agency, confirmed that no tests are required.
"There was a voluntary phase-out," she told The Enterprise earlier. She was referring to a 2002 EPA announcement that the wood industry had voluntarily agreed to phase out wood treated with CCA (Chromated Copper Arsenic) for residential use by the end of 2003. The EPA stated, however, it did not believe there was any reason to remove or replace existing arsenic-treated structures.
"It’s up to the consumer," said Ackerman. "There is no legal requirement for a school to remove existing play sets treated with CCA. They can coat it with a sealant."
Ackerman stated, "EPA does not believe there is a need for consumers or schools to remove existing structures, such as playground equipment...However, the guidance we have issued for consumers in working with CCA-treated wood is also applicable to schools."
She added, "It certainly would be a good idea for schools to check precautions, to keep anyone from coming into direct contact with sawdust."

Sanders said that the Guilderland School District annually treats its wooden playgrounds with sealant.

He said that the district also follows the other two EPA guidelines: Staff have children wash their hands after using the playground; and no food contact is allowed with the wood.
Sanders concluded: "Pressure-treated wood is used just about everywhere."

Three years of fund-raising

The new playgrounds at Guilderland Elementary will not use wood, but rather rigid plastic-covered steel components. The non-wood parts of the old playgrounds — including swing sets and a rock-climbing wall — will be incorporated into the new play spaces.

The equipment is being purchased from Parkitects, a family-owned company chosen by a PTA committee that considered several alternatives, said Valverde.
"This is our third year raising money," she said.

Money has come from a score of fund-raising efforts, including the sale of gifts, entertainment books, and hams.

The PTA has also hosted several family-friendly activities, including a harvest dinner, a bowlathon, a carnival, and two golf outings.
"The teachers had a raffle with donated items like a walk in the park with the principal," said Valverde. "The kids bought tickets. It was school-wide." Guilderland Elementary has 585 students, she said.
A bulletin board outside of the cafeteria, titled "Slide to Success," has pictures of the proposed play equipment. The center of the board has a giant slide, with red paper blocks marking the amount of money raised so far.

The PTA leaders are well aware of concerns about childhood obesity. A plan to give away free cookies to students this week to kick off the sale was canceled because of health concerns, particularly for students with nut allergies.
"Our bake sales are getting healthier," said Jurek, noting granola bars and fruit are replacing brownies.
"But the cookies always sell first," said Valverde.

She went on to stress that, with the current cookie-dough sale, kids are not being targeted.
"We’re not selling them to the kids; we’re selling them to the parents," she said. "They control what the kids eat."
Sally Foster, which markets its product as "Premium Collection Gourmet Cookie Dough," says that 40 percent of the purchase price goes to the school. The dough comes in 10 flavors and can be stored in a freezer for a year.
"Cookies are a big money-maker," said Valverde.

The new playground equipment is tentatively scheduled for delivery on July 17, said Jurek, which means the money has to be raised by June 17.
"That’s why we need this sale to be a success," she said.

More Guilderland News

  • The use variance request was made by John Polk and and his wife, Rebecca Stump, to allow for up to six chickens on their nearly 20-acre Bozenkill Road property. 

  • In a Jan. 5 letter to the Surface Transportation Board, village attorney Allyson Phillips writes that Altamont is opposed to CSX’s attempted acquisition of Pan Am Systems because the running of a 1.7-mile-long train twice per day over the Main Street railroad crossing would leave parts of the village inaccessible to emergency responders for as long as 10 minutes.  

  • The biggest factor in the revenue jump is the state’s commitment to make Foundation Aid to schools whole. “It looks like that three-year phase-in, at least from the governor’s perspective, is going to happen, so that’s tremendous news for our school district and school districts throughout the state,” Guilderland’s assistant superintendent for business, Neil Sanders, said on Tuesday.

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