Recess reconstruction

Lovejoy Elementary tears down old playground due to safety concerns


Katie Felton

Lovejoy Elementary built a new playground after demolishing the old wooden one.

Handbuilt in 2006 by parents, community members, and school staff, the former wooden, Leopard-themed Lovejoy Elementary playground was home to many students’ memories. However, due to safety issues, the iconic playground was recently torn down.

“Over the past 10 years [the old playground] has deteriorated,” assistant superintendent Dennis Womack said. “Our maintenance staff had been replacing pieces and parts that have broken and become unstable.”

Taking down the old playground was a tough decision for most.

“We were at the point of, ‘do we need to continue to put the safety at risk or go ahead and build a new playground,’” Womack said. “When we went out for the bond election in May of 2014 we included funds in the bond election to replace that playground with a new playground.”

The previous playground was hand-built, hand-painted, and split into two sections: a larger playground and a smaller playground for kindergartners.
Courtesy of Rachel Bradley
The previous playground was hand-built, hand-painted, and split into two sections: a larger playground and a smaller playground for kindergartners.

The old playground had memories that many deem irreplaceable.

“A lot of people who built the playground or watched it be built or have been here a long time had lots of memories on it,” fourth grader Kiera Cunningham said. “I bet the playground being torn down makes them sad.”

The old playground was taken down a couple of weeks before spring break and then replaced.

“Weeks before spring break was when it started being dismantled and the remainder was during spring break,” Womack said. “The wood structure was dismantled and piled then it was scooped up and removed off site during spring break.”

The first response to tearing down the playground was not good, but when the new one was finished the opinion changed.

“Third hand, I heard that some students were booing when they went out for recess while the maintenance men were dismantling [the old playground],” Womack said. “But I went out there the first day the new playground opened and the kids were ecstatic. I think they like it even though it’s not the old playground and it never will be the old playground.”

Before spring break, the old playground was demolished.
Katie Felton
Before spring break, the old playground was demolished.

Most students like the new playground with only one complaint, the size.

“I like the new playground,” fourth grader Mallory Cass said. “The slide is fun; there’s some cool things that the other one didn’t have, but the other one was a lot bigger so it is a little small for the whole grade to fit on but the things on it are newer and fun.”

Womack is not concerned about the size.

“The wood structure was just spread out more, this one is just more compact,” Womack said. “The old one was more in terms of the aesthetics. The structure itself looked bigger and it was split into two, a small area and large area, but there wasn’t more stuff to do. There wasn’t much to the [old playground] in terms of play or interaction with the equipment. Whereas this one, although the footprint may be smaller and it’s not split into two, there’s more stuff to do.”

Rumors were that the old playground was being taken down so the school could expand.

“I think they tore it down so they could build another part of the school and make it bigger,” fourth grader Emma Dillard said.

But those rumors have been proven wrong.

“We don’t need to expand [Lovejoy Elementary] anytime soon,” Womack said. “Eventually we will expand but it hasn’t been designated exactly where, it could be where the old playground was, that’s definitely an option but that’s pretty far out in terms of years.”

A “grass area” will now go where the old playground was located.

“The principal wants us to plant grass where the old structure was,” Womack said. “Kind of create a play area that’s closer to the building and to the pavilion.”