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Playground hurdles hamper progress

September 2, 2018

LAUGHLIN — Frustration and irritation are showing when it comes to breaking ground on a playground for fourth and fifth grade students at Laughlin Junior Senior High School.

School Organization Team members Dorothy Cooper and Cheryl Crow have found red tape at every turn, they reported at a recent SOT meeting.

“So what we have is a few hiccups and a few more hiccups,” Cooper said of a meeting with the Clark County School District to review plans for the playground.

After much discussion, the district’s directive included $8,000 for a civil engineer to review the plans and an ultimate price tag of $212,000, for the playground, shade structure, grading and more.

The district also declined to provide proof of insurance so that SOT could apply for a $15,000 KaBOOM grant, Cooper said.

“It’s been a headache,” she said.

No additional dollars will be accepted as donations until the matter is resolved, she continued.

“Every single day there’s been something else that comes up that says, ‘you can’t do that,’” Crow said, ticking off some of the items they’ve encountered: an issue with the crane working on the air conditioner at the school, $8,000 for a civil engineer, use of a contractor that could cost as much as $60,000.

The KaBOOM grant would help and community members are eager to help but costs for the playground have skyrocketed to more than $200,000, Crow said.

“Someone has to explain to me how that makes sense,” Crow said. “We’re not asking them for money. All we want is (proof of) the insurance the county has on a piece of land,” she added.

Part of the issue stems from wanting to use the grant, school principal Dawn Estes explained. The KaBOOM grant requires specific equipment and that the district assume all liability associated with that equipment, Estes read from an email from CCSD.

According to the email, the project requires several steps to meet all building and safety codes, and the equipment is only one part of the issue. The grant itself seems to be at odds with district codes and procedures and because of the scope of the project, it would need to be formally bid.

Estes was told the scope of the project means the district would have to use prevailing wage and once a contractor was found, the contractor would determine whether or not to accept donations from the community, she said.

The district doesn’t typically build playgrounds on a high school campus and to do so would mean special site requirements to ensure student safety.

The junior senior high school houses sixth through 12th grade, resulting in a struggle to offer equitable access for all students, Estes said.

The school and SOT will need to figure out how to work through that, she continued.

The general sentiment from SOT members was frustration with and negative feelings toward the district.

With the latest roadblocks, SOT members and Estes discussed alternatives to the playground, such as a basketball court, that all the students could enjoy.

SOT members expressed concerns about community enthusiasm for a playground that can’t be built and the $29,000 in donations already accepted for the project.

Moving fourth and fifth grades back to the elementary campus was also suggested. The grades would be housed in mobiles at the elementary school campus, rather than a permanent building, which brings a host of concerns, including heating and cooling.

SOT members and Estes hope to meet with district employees to discuss the playground. Estes emphasized being diplomatic to achieve their goals.

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