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[whitespace] Parents Respond to Needs for New Playgrounds

Cupertino--Parents' organizations around the Cupertino Union School District have been finding creative ways to raise money in preparation for a proposed federal law that may require schools to replace aging playground equipment.

If the law passes, the federal health and safety code will require each school district to make sure its playground equipment is up to the strict standards set by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission by the year 2000.

The CUSD doesn't have the money to buy the equipment for each school in the district--equipment that costs upwards of $30,000 a set--so parents are working on buying the structures themselves.

Instead of a spaghetti dinner or bake sale, Lincoln Elementary School's parent group is selling bricks to replace the school's 30 year old equipment, according to Janis Jennings, Lincoln's PTA fundraising coordinator. So far, the promotion has been going gangbusters.

The bricks cost $100 apiece, and can be engraved with a message or family names and will be placed in and around the school's new reading garden.

The garden, which will be installed next spring at the school, was designed by students and comes complete with benches and aesthetically pleasing surroundings where kids can relax.

In the two weeks since the PTA first advertised the fundraiser, the group has received about $5,000 from more than 70 families.

"I guess that means we're about a third of the way there," Jennings said. "Each school in the district has done a fundraising project [for playgrounds] in the last couple of years."

Jennings said most of Lincoln's playground equipment would most likely not pass proposed federal guidelines.

If the parents can come up with the funds to buy the equipment, the district will pay to have it installed, according to Ted Hood, the district's assistant superintendent for business services. That usually runs about 25 percent of the cost, he said.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 200,000 kids in the United States are treated in emergency rooms each year for injuries sustained on playground equipment.

Many of those accidents could be prevented, according to the agency, if the gear was upgraded or at least inspected for better safety.

According to Hood, the Cupertino district already follows all the guidelines set by the CPSC. It uses annual reports from the agency and uses test kits to ensure the safety of all of the district's equipment.

In one test, he said, inspectors attempt to fit a head-sized object through a set of bars. The reasoning--if a head can fit through the bars, then an entire body can, and the bars are deemed unsafe.

"We've gone through and removed all dangerous equipment," Hood said. "Everything meets the criteria."

Hood said every playground in the district is safe, and the schools that have initiated fundraisers to purchase new equipment have done so on their own--not because of any unsafe equipment.

"This is the first-ever fundraiser for Lincoln," Jennings said, adding that Lincoln is a "direct donation" school.

The PTA there asks parents to make one donation at the beginning of each school year so it doesn't have to ask for more.

Other PTA groups from CUSD elementary schools including Portal, Regnart, Faria and West Valley have recently finished fundraisers for new playground equipment.
Steve Enders

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