NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - New playground equipment is coming to Pequenakonck Elementary, though not fast enough for some parents.
The playground was torn up two years ago when the district underwent a project to replace its septic system and due to a number of obstacles, it’s still not complete.
Superintendent Ken Freeston said the state Department of Health held up some aspects project, but it’s also been slow going because the district employed its in-house facilities team to do the work rather than hire an outside contractor.
That soon could change, however. On Monday, after the North Salem News press deadline, Freeston was expected to ask the district’s facilities team to put out a bid to hire a crew to do the work, which he said should “speed up significantly the conclusion of the project.” Additionally, a bid went out this week for new playground equipment.
Many parents took to Facebook last week to complain about the conditions of the playground and some spoke about it at the Board of Education meeting Wednesday, April 11.
Anne Greenberg said the playground could be a turn-off for people looking to move to North Salem.
“It’s spring. It’s real estate season, but if a young family comes to look at the school and that’s what they see there…We need to very, very quickly clean it up and make sure everything is safer for the kids,” Greenberg said.
Another parent, Marcy Miller, said it was “frustrating as a taxpayer” to see the project drag on so long.
“In two years, $230,000 has been spent on PQ septic and parents are saying, ‘Wow, it looks horrendous’,” Miller said. “We need to understand we’re now handing someone a complete mess.”
Freeston said if the facilities committee agrees to hire outside labor, the bid specs would be due May 1 and then a timeline for competition would be established.
The project to replace the septic system at PQ began in 2016 when the previous one–installed more than 43 years ago–exceeded its life span.
The new septic system is about twice the size of the old one to accommodate a larger school population. The new system is expected to last 40 to 45 years.
However, in order to put in the new septic system, the kindergarten playground had to be excavated and moved.
As part of the installation, the playground was resurfaced and the basketball court in the kindergarten wing was replaced and moved slightly closer to the building, away from the septic fields.
The upgrades are being paid for with a $12.7 million bond that voters approved in 2015.
“I have a third-grader who’s saying for two years, ‘Mommy, I haven’t been able to play on that playground’,” Greenberg said. “It’s kind of sad when I don’t have an answer.”