SPARTA, NJ- Parents have been meeting and discussing the undersized and inadequate playground facilities at Mohawk Avenue School. Several attended the September board of education meeting last week.

 Public comment was where the action was at the meeting.  While many of the comments were made by either supporters or detractors of the Superintendent Michael Rossi in the face of his proposed contract renewal others came to talk about a playground.

Parents have been active in asking to have the playground equipment and facilities upgraded, holding meetings with the principal and even Rossi. From comments made at the board of education meeting Rossi had apparently committed to making improvements in those parent meetings.

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The current playground equipment at Mohawk Avenue School was installed by the district after the building was reopened as a preschool and kindergarten school in 2011.  When the pre-school and kindergarten were moved to Alpine and third grade was moved to Mohawk Avenue School, the playground was not upgraded for the older children. 

Parent Lisa Gardner said typically the PTOs are responsible for maintaining and upgrading playgrounds.  She quoted Business Administrator Pam Hinman; the district has $2,904,571.18 in the capital reserve accounts and $911,633 in maintenance.  Gardner thanked Rossi for being willing to use some district funds for improvements to the Mohawk Avenue School playground with the balance coming from parents.  Gardner said she did not know why the district would not pay for the upgrades given all the funds available. 

There has been discussion of holding a Kripsy Kream donut sale fundraiser, among parents who are seeking playground improvements.

An issue with the parent funded model is that Mohawk Avenue School only houses one grade.  It is difficult to garner support from families when the children are only there for one year, according to Grano.  Gardner said the playground fund at the Mohawk Avenue PTO is only $9. 

Niamh Grano reiterated, “why do we need to fundraise when there is so much money in reserves.”

A quote of $100,000 was mentioned for the playground improvements. 

Rossi said, “No one necessarily has to do anything.”  He said they have been on target with everything they have had to do and “I’m confident we’ll be on target for this as well.” He said, “You guys might want an addition to this,” so that would have to be funded by parents.

Gardner said they would like to have new swing and slide playground equipment that meets the needs of third grade children.  Additionally they would like more blacktop with a basketball hoop. 

Gardner and Grano talked about the holes in the ground, sharing that a student had been injured in the first few weeks of school, having fallen in a hole.  Gardner asked to have the water run off addressed to eliminate the holes that are created by erosion.

Parent Symbol Aslam why “the district cannot be proactive about things rather than wait for someone to get hurt.” 

Rossi said “We’ve been doing a lot for the children.”

Talking with TAPinto Sparta, Aslam questioned why they were even talking about the need for fundraising.  She said the district had announced $3.5 million was budgeted for the turf field but Rossi told Kurt Morris at a previous board meeting that the cost was only $3.1 million.  Aslam said she wondered why the unused funds could not be used to address the playground at Mohawk Avenue School.  “I don’t think the football team or other sports were asked to sell donuts to get the turf field built,” she told TAPinto Sparta.

Rossi told Grano, “My goal is to get [the playground upgrades] in for September.  I’ll be right by your side just like I’ve been for all the other projects.”