Vice Chair Jason Fraser provided an update on the playground plans for the Dennett Elementary School at the Plympton School Committee meeting on Monday, Nov. 4. Fraser and Dennett Principal Peter Veneto had what Fraser described as “a very fruitful meeting” with consultant Joseph Dufour of O’Brien and Sons.
The two-hour meeting included a discussion of the plans to make the new playground as accessible as possible for all students. The original plan included a wheelchair accessible swing but Dufour said it takes two people to man the swing and because of risks posed by the heavy pendulum, it would have to be secluded from the rest of the playground.
Fraser said that since that defeats the purpose of being more inclusive, they will instead have two of the swings on the playground be adaptive swings that are molded and include a harness.
Dufour also dissuaded them from using an abundance of pine bark mulch as it may not be allowed as a surface on playgrounds in the near future as it wears down within 3-6 months affecting its impact resistance. Dufour suggested incorporating more rubber surface into the design. A rubber surface is wheelchair-accessible whereas woodchips are not. Rubber grounding comes in at $17 per sq. ft., making it more expensive than mulch. Fraser asked the committee if upon completion of the project the contingency fund still exists that it be applied toward more rubber grounding. Committee Chair Jon Wilhelmsen suggested first running it by some others but agreed saying, “I think provided the money is there and available and there isn’t any cost overrun once the project is finished, I think there is some long term benefit to the town.”
A ground level merry-go-round was another ADA compliant feature that was discussed. The installation, delivery, and equipment will cost an additional $37,000. Dufour said that he could complete the installation over the summer. Regarding the addition, Fraser said, “We really felt that at that point we would have a well-rounded playground that we could hang our hats on and hold onto for the next twenty/twenty-five years.” Fraser asked the committee for their support in using school choice funds toward the merry-go-round.
Regarding cost, Fraser said they currently have $226,000 including school choice funds and Community Preservation Committee (CPC) funds with some money being held back as a contingency fund. As drawn up, the plan proposed by Dufour would cost $201,000. Fraser said it is looking likely that they will be going with O’Brien and Sons for the creation of the new playground.
Assistant Superintendent Jill Proulx gave a presentation on the Dennett students’ MCAS results. Their results indicated that they are outperforming 73 percent of other elementary and middle schools in the state.
Dennett students had high growth in both English Language Arts (ELA) and math as well as exceeding targets in science. Fraser expressed relief that the outcomes were significantly better than last years’. Wilhelmsen pointed out that given that Plympton has such a small population, the sample same size is limited and therefore a change in just a few students can make a big difference in the results.
Proulx said that chronic absenteeism (a measure used in reporting MCAS results) did rise slightly from 5.1 percent to 6.8 percent. While Proulx asked that no one come to school with the flu she did want to remind parents and students of the importance of coming to school whenever possible.
The Title 1 Director and K-6 Curriculum Coordinator Melissa Farrell also spoke to the committee. Farrell said that Dennett has adopted a new math program this year that is better aligned with state standards.
Farrell also said that they are currently working across the district to ensure that the science curriculum is better aligned with standards. Farrell also informed the committee that there will be a $120,000 cut in Title 1 funding. Farrell said that this year would proceed as usual, but that in January, it will be necessary to evaluate where they are.
Both site visits to the current campuses of the two superintendent finalists were conducted this past week. Final interviews will be held on November 11 and November 12 at 6 pm in the Silver Lake Regional High School library. A final deliberation and decision will be made on November 13 or November 14, if needed.
Important upcoming dates include a D.A.R.E. coffee hour on November 12. The event will be videotaped and posted to the school website. Picture retakes will take place on November 18 and the annual Thanksgiving feast will be on November 20 at 11:30.
There is no school on November 28 and 29.