Upgrades account for school play-area closures

I recently walked to a school with my 1- and 2-year-old children with the promise of fun only to find the gates had been locked. After discussing this with an employee at a nearby business, I discovered that this was not the only schoolyard closed in Medford. Are all school playgrounds in the district closed for the summer, and is this something new due to budget cuts?

— Sky W., Medford

Sounds like someone gave you some bum information, Sky.

Generally, the Medford schools remain open after school hours into the evenings and through the summer.

We checked with Superintendent Phil Long, who said that schoolyards are undergoing some improvements this summer that will make them safer for kids.

Long and a few Since You Asked colleagues remember how the monkey bars were constructed over an asphalt surface in the last millennium. Ouch.

Schools have since gotten a little wiser, substituting softer materials to break the inevitable falls.

Long said the schools are installing a material known as Sof'fall, a wood fiber material that doesn't produce splinters but substantially reduces the risk of serious injuries from falls.

Schools have experimented with various materials over the years, from pea gravel to bark chips, which generated complaints that they were scratchy and irritating. Some schools have installed rubber matting.

The $70,000 project involved six elementary schools: Abraham Lincoln, Griffin Creek, Jefferson, Kennedy, Ruch and Wilson. Long said some playgrounds have been closed to prevent injuries and to secure materials.

"Sadly, sometimes our resources disappear during the night," he said.

Also, at Jefferson Elementary, the Parent Teacher Organization has raised money to pay for the installation of a new track. The tracks at the three high schools are closed when staff members are not around to protect the artificial turf.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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