A revamped play area is in the works at Manaugh Elementary School, thanks to a Great Outdoors Colorado grant the school received in March.
Manaugh was awarded a $110,000 School Yard Initiative grant to renovate its outdoor play spaces and improve its compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The COVID-19 pandemic has somewhat interrupted the project’s progress, but school administrators hope to begin construction in spring 2021, said Whitney Rapp, principal at Manaugh Elementary School.
“We’re super-excited at Manaugh, because this means that new stuff is going to be coming in, and hopefully more accessible playground areas,” Rapp said.
They have two years to use the grant money.
Currently, the Manaugh play area is spacious, but it’s aging and hard for children to use, Rapp said. The blacktop put in over 50 years ago is crumbling and is situated on a slope.
“We have our Life Skills program at our school,” Rapp said. “And a good number of students in that program — as well as other students in our whole population — are in a wheelchair, and have physical needs. And the sloping of our playground blacktop is not very helpful for them getting around on their own.”
Manaugh is the only Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 elementary school with the Life Skills program, which serves students with special needs.
Other identified needs include leveling the running path and marking it with mileage measurements, along with playground improvements to allow students in wheelchairs to access higher structure levels.
Rapp said students played a major role in this project.
“This really was driven by a student task force,” she said. The students surveyed classes, parents and community members to gather information, helped with fundraising and took part in the design process alongside professionals from MIG Design.
In March, GOCO announced that two Montezuma County projects had been awarded grants: Manaugh would receive a $110,000 School Yard Initiative grant for its play area, and the town of Dolores would receive a $173,493 Local Park and Outdoor Recreation grant for a new playground at Joe Rowell Park. (The Dolores project wrapped up in June.)
Montezuma County partnered with Manaugh and Re-1 on this project, as school districts can’t directly receive GOCO grant monies — a local governing entity has to serve as a fiscal agent.
The COVID situation has put Manaugh’s playground on pause for the time being, Rapp said, both because Re-1 has been focused on writing other grants to help get the school year underway, and because it was difficult to work on the project after school doors shuttered in March, especially since students were such a big part of it.
In preparing the GOCO application, the student task force and supporting staff came up with multiple phases of the project, with the grant covering Phase 1.
Phase 1 will replace most of the school’s old blacktop area, along with creating an expanded lawn area, an ADA-accessible fitness trail, new benches and shade structures, and new asphalt for the basketball and tetherball courts.
In later phases, students and staff hope to add a sensory garden, accessible treehouse climber, a sand play area, an ADA-accessible swing bay and more outdoor gathering areas.
Eventually, they plan to have new entrance points so that students and community members can access the play yard outside of school hours.
“It’s not going to just be a Manaugh school playground,” Rapp said. “But it is a community asset.”
Once school begins, they hope to begin seeking additional in-kind donations, planning the construction process, and continuing to work with the Re-1 grants department, Rapp said.
The GOCO organization was formed in 1992 to help protect and enhance Colorado’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers, and open spaces. Much of its funding comes from Colorado Lottery proceeds.