'Miscommunication' leads to specially installed elementary school playground being torn down

Parents raised $3,500 and put in more than 21 hours of labor

By Lindsey Kennett - Reporter

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. - A now-empty plot of land has parents and school officials butting heads.

Piles of hay, torn up grass and an empty field are all that's left after a new playground at Snow Creek Elementary School was dismantled. 

A huge disappointment for students and parents who worked for nearly a year to raise money, get plans approved and build a ninja warrior style playground for fourth and fifth graders 

"The fourth and fifth graders have to play on one side of the school. (It's) completely understandable, (I) don't want my second grader playing with fifth graders. (There is a big) size difference; however, (on) that side, there is no playground," said Jarret Amos. 

That's why Amos and other parents raised $3,500 and put in more than 21 hours of labor to install it just before the start of the new school year.

But on Tuesday, parents were told the playground was going to be torn down, all of the equipment would be sold at auction and the district would keep the money. 

"We raised kind of a stink. They said anything you can take apart you can come and get," said Amos. "So me and several other dads tore it all down. It's sitting in my shed. I don't know what we're going to do with it." 

Snow Creek's principal, Ken Grindstaffer, said it was all a miscommunication between the school and administration because the playground didn't meet code requirements for safety standards and the district. 

Grindstaff sent this message out to parents in a letter on Wednesday:

Dear Snow Creek Families,

I write you today to clarify and explain why our newly installed playground equipment was dismantled. I understand that it is disheartening for both our students and the greater community; however, there was a  miscommunication between the School Board Office and myself, and I was not given full authorization to proceed with the project.

The equipment purchased, although fine for home use, was not designed for rigorous school usage. The purchased equipment and materials used to construct the playground also does not meet the national playground safety standards. Using the playground as constructed could present a safety issue for our students. The decision was made to remove it based on the safety and wellbeing of our students and to hopefully recover some of the expenses.

This action in no way should reflect on the fine and hard work of our PTO and parents who constructed this playground. We will work diligently with the PITO and School Board Office to construct a playground that is safe for our students, and that can be used for many years to come. 

Thank you for your patience and understanding

Sincerely,

Ken Grindstaff, Principal

PTO members said they tried to work with school officials to make necessary safety improvements and now they won't be able to get their money back.  

"I hope that the playground they say they're going to buy goes in quick enough to use this school year," said Amos. 

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