After PTA school fundraisers paid to install a new $35,000 set of playground equipment, the county ruled it unsafe and told the PTA at Stratford Landing Elementary School, in Fairfax County, Virginia that the equipment needed to be removed. Crime scene tape is draped across the playground equipment and the children are forbidden to play on it.
A report from a county inspector said that the school’s new playground “places users at an increased life-safety risk” and that the Evos playground system chosen by the PTA could lead to head injuries and neck entrapment. “The equipment should be removed from the property,” said the report.
This devastating decision came despite the fact that the Stratford Landing PTA had worked closely with the Fairfax County School Board’s facilities department to get all the necessary approvals. The PTA says the county provided the parents with literature about school playground construction procedures and catalogs from approved vendors, including the playground equipment chosen.
The PTA chose a popular playground system from vendor Landscape Structures called “Evos” which is installed at more than 1,250 locations across the country, including one installed at a nearby Arrowbrook county park.
Fred Caslavka, who is Landscape Structures’ CFO, said the Evos system is safe, fun and popular with children.
“It is one of our more popular designs,” Caslavka said. “I’m actually quite surprised that Fairfax County says it’s not safe. I’m totally confident it complies with all the standards out there.”
The PTA had hired Isaac Sparks to install the playground equipment. Sparks, who helped oversee the Evos installation at Arrowbrook county park, said there are two more Evos playgrounds installed in nearby Arlington County, at the Charles Drew Community Center and Mace Park. Officials with the Arlington school system said there is another set of the same playground equipment installed at Oakridge Elementary.
Sparks also called the Evos system the standard playground equipment for D.C. public schools.
The Fairfax County school system insists the playground has to go. That despite the fact that the school system actually never created written specifications for playground equipment, so there is technically no violation at all.
“Unfortunately, the playground equipment purchased by the PTA does not meet FCPS safety standards,” school system spokesman John Torre told reporters. “We are currently working with school officials to consider options to upgrade and renovate the entire school playground.”