Medford board lays out plan to upgrade school playgrounds
Medford is planning to make upgrades to its elementary and middle school playground equipment. Board members got an overview of the multiple-year project at Monday’s regular school board meeting. Efforts started with Medford Elementary School last summer with upgrades to make the playground more accessible. Principal Dan Miller noted that accessibility had been a challenge in the past with the pea gravel surfacing in the play area. This made it hard for students with mobility issues to access the equipment. The upgrades include surfacing, pathways, and swings that are able to accommodate wheelchairs. “The kids have absolutely loved it,” Miller said. The project costs came out of the budget for the elementary school building, the district overall maintenance budget and from the special education budget.
This coming summer, the district is looking at making upgrades to the playground at the Medford Area Middle School. Principal Al Leonard noted their equipment has been the same as when the students moved into the school 21 years ago.
“It has been a need for our kids,” Leonard said of the planned playground changes noting that it was long overdue.
The equipment will include an elevated fitness course that will have obstacles and things for the students to climb on and run through. Leonard said the equipment will also be used in the physical education classes. Leonard noted that not only will the playground addition be a benefit to the school, but it will also benefit the community as the only playground in that part of the city of Medford. He said they will also have surfacing changes to install artifi cial turf near the swings and around the equipment to improve accessibility.
Leonard noted that the vendor the district is working with is currently offering a 50% discount on the equipment.
Board president Dave Fleegel asked if it would be taking away some of the green space at the school. Leonard said it would be, but that they had talked with the physical education teachers who felt the new equipment would be a worthwhile trade-off for green space.
Stetsonville Elementary School principal Sue Ann Schroeder gave an overview of the planned changes to that school’s playground. She said they were looking forward to doing a project in summer 2022 with accessibility, again, being a major issue.
“We are looking forward to having newer equipment for Stetsonville kids and the community,” she said, noting the current playground is a hodgepodge of equipment with some of it relocated from other playgrounds.
District administrator Pat Sullivan said the group working on the playground upgrades has been actively seeking donations to help defray the budget impact.
“This is a very generous community,” Sullivan said, adding that donation possibilities looked promising and that he would have more information at the March meeting.
“We think a lot of this will come from donation,” he said.
A decade after the end to traditional collective bargaining in school districts around the state, Medford schools has developed a system of employee relations committees and a process for staff to make requests for the board’s consideration.
Sullivan explained that the teacher group has met several times since fall and that they were ready to bring their requests for the coming year. “I am letting you know what their requests are,” he said.
This year the requests focused on sick and vacation days and were as follows:
_ Increase the payout for unused sick leave. Currently staff can accumulate up to 120 sick days with any unused days over that paid out at the end of that school year and at retirement at a rate of $60 per day. The last time the rate was changed was in 2009.
_ Increase the payout for unused personal leave. The last time this was changed was also in 2009 when it was raised from $40 to $60. Staff can start with five personal days in a year.
_ Increase the number of personal leave days teachers receive as they start their 15th year of service from two to three and increase the number of days that can be banked to six after 15 years of service.
_ Adjust the funeral leave to allow staff to take a “floating” funeral leave day for people who are not currently on the main list which includes immediate family members. They are requesting being able to use funeral leave day for people on the secondary list or not on any list. Staff will still have the option to using sick leave, personal days or unpaid days to attend funerals.
Sullivan said the committee would be meeting again to put the requests in a priority order and was not asking for any decisions to be made at this time.
In other business, board members:
_ Discussed the upcoming legislative dinner scheduled for March 1. The event has commitment from seven legislators. Due to COVID-19 space is more limited for the in-person participants, but it was noted that it would be live streamed this year. Sullivan said they have heard from 12 districts that plan to attend either virtually or in person.
_ Did the annual review of student fees and approved keeping them the same for the coming school year.
_ Made no change in the stand on allowing foreign exchange students. As long as the country of origin is allowing the students to come here, the school will accept them.
_ Approved the CESA service contract for the coming year with about $97,000 of services the district purchases from CESA. Sullivan said the list was reviewed by administration and it was felt it was more cost effective to continue to contract with CESA for these services.
_ Approved a language change to the support staff handbook encouraging 12-month support staff employees to take their vacation days during times when students were not scheduled to be in the building.
medford middle school
Design drawings show the plans for playground equipment upgrades proposed for Medford Area Middle School (left) and Stetsonville Elementary School (right). The equipment plans are part of a multi-year effort to upgrade the existing equipment and increase accessibility for students. The equipment at MAMS has been in place since the building opened 21 years ago.