Outdoor features approved for new elementary school

This is a rendering of the new playground equipment at the Pipestone Area Schools Board members approved during their Feb. 28 meeting. Elementary students helped choose the equipment through focus groups conducted by Elementary Principal Toni Baartman. Source: Pipestone Area Schools

Pipestone Area Schools (PAS) Board members during their Feb. 28 meeting approved the purchase of additional playground equipment, and fencing and electrical work for two new ball fields at the new elementary school.

The playground equipment will cost $60,698.06, chain link fencing for the ball field will cost $30,872 and electrical work for the ball field will cost $19,320. Superintendent Kevin Enerson said the district will incur additional costs for site work. The school district will use funds remaining for the elementary school building project for the improvements.

The ball fields will take the place of the one that had been located at Brown Elementary and the additional playground equipment was the result of students indicating they wanted more equipment than is currently at the playground.

“I started a focus group in September for several reasons and one of the questions was things you would change about the school,” said Elementary Principal Toni Baartman. “Pretty overwhelmingly it was a bigger playground.”

Baartman said she asked the students in the focus group what they’d like to see added to the playground and the most common responses were monkey bars and swings. She took those ideas to Minnesota Wisconsin Playground, which sells playground equipment, and the company provided some options and a book of equipment. Baartman said she looked through the options and selected some items she thought students might like. The company then provided two options based on her input that she presented to the student focus group and they chose the option that was ultimately approved by the school board, which Baartman said has the most monkey bars and the most swings.

“It was very student focused and very student driven,” Baartman said.

She said the focus groups included one student from each third through fifth grade classroom each month with different students participating each time. School board member Amy Nelson said she appreciated that Baartman allowed students to provide input.

Enerson said the new playground equipment will be located west of the sidewalk across from where the existing playground equipment is. The ball fields will be located on the grassy area north of the elementary school. The fields will not have outfield fences, so as to allow for multiple uses of the land, but they will have backstops, a concession stand and scoreboards.

In other business, the school board approved a budget amendment that reduces the projected general fund deficit from $1,142,148 to $707,511 for fiscal year 2022, which ends on June 30. Documents presented at the school board meeting show that updated student counts, updated special education information, COVID-related funding and other factors lead to the changes to the budget. PAS Business Manager Jacque Kennedy said new contracts with employees were also a factor.