Ridgefield selectmen support plan to upgrade school playgrounds

Jessica Lane, center, and Isabela Hart, right, gets a push from Chanel Schrjver, left, as the girls play on the We-saw - a new kind of see-saw, during recess at Veterans Park Elementary School in Ridgefield, Conn., Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. The Veterans Park PTA raised about $20,000 for improvements and upgrades to the school's playground and installation was completed over the summer. The upgrades include climbing ropes, the We-saw, cushioned flooring and improved handi-cap accessibility.

Jessica Lane, center, and Isabela Hart, right, gets a push from Chanel Schrjver, left, as the girls play on the We-saw - a new kind of see-saw, during recess at Veterans Park Elementary School in Ridgefield, Conn., Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. The Veterans Park PTA raised about $20,000 for improvements and upgrades to the school's playground and installation was completed over the summer. The upgrades include climbing ropes, the We-saw, cushioned flooring and improved handi-cap accessibility.

Carol Kaliff / Carol Kaliff

RIDGEFIELD — The Board of Selectmen has backed a proposal to upgrade the school playgrounds with surplus education funds.

The board voted unanimously on Wednesday to support the schools’ proposal to create a non-lapsing fund that would help the town kick-start projects to enhance accessibility at the playgrounds. The request will next go to the Board of Finance.

“What our goal is with this is: in many ways it’s obviously to help our students, but also to give the town an opportunity to move a little bit quicker than they might have been able to do without having an allocated amount of money toward this very specific goal,” Superintendent Susie Da Silva said before the board’s vote.

Due to a one-time adjustment related to insurance payments, the school board anticipates having some money left over at the end of this fiscal year. The exact amount is to be determined, Da Silva said.

Under state law, the Board of Finance may deposit any school budget surplus into a non-lapsing account created for educational purposes. Ridgefield town and school officials intend to agree that this fund would be used for the playgrounds.

Although the playgrounds are on school property, it’s the town’s responsibility to upgrade them. In the past, Parent Teacher Associations have raised money for improvements, as well. This fund could help create a cycle for more consistent playground improvements, Da Silva said.

Town and school officials said they have been working to prioritize projects for the six elementary schools, which have two playgrounds each. Some playgrounds have been upgraded more recently and don’t need work immediately.

It would cost between $150,000 to $180,000 to upgrade each playground, depending on its needs, officials estimated.