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Black and gold playground equipment awaits installation at the Sedalia Middle School Wednesday morning. Workers from Miracle Recreation and Equipment Company from Monett will install a new playground at SMS during the next week.  

Although it is still a few months away, the start of school for fifth graders can be filled with a little trepidation. After spending five years working to reach the top of the elementary ladder they begin again as middle school students.

This year, SMS students will find their return to school a little more familiar. Principal Brendan Eisenmenger in the latest edition of Day Trippin’ explained to Sedalia School District 200 Superintendent Steve Triplett the middle school is returning to more of an “elementary style” setting.

“We changed the schedule to more of a homeroom environment,”  Eisenmenger said. “Kids will be able to have that classroom connection with their teachers along with the students in their class.”  

Part of that concept is the return of recess. It is an idea Eisenmenger said the incoming students are really excited about. Wednesday, employees from Miracle Recreation and Equipment Company of Monett began installing a new playground for the school.

“We are very excited to have the opportunity to offer a playground at the middle school,” Assistant Superintendent for Building and Grounds Chris Pyle said. “Mr. Eisenmenger and his team have done an excellent job in aligning their schedule to offer a smooth transition for our students coming from the elementary schools.

“The daily schedule will be similar to our elementary level and will help fifth-grade students develop further prior to their junior high years,” he continued. “The SMS team planned with intent on providing movement/playtime breaks in their schedule for times other than their physical education class.”

Both Eisenmenger and Pyle said they feel the students will benefit from the extra exercise and social skill development the equipment will offer. 

Once approved by the Board of Education, the district’s first commitment was to provide a safe, positive environment for the students to play.

According to Pyle, the equipment meets playground safety industry standards for students at the middle school-age level. The site for the playground will be on the former middle school football/soccer field.

“The layout of the equipment is placed strategically so the majority of the field can still be utilized for sports play if students choose,” Pyle explained. “The playground will be ready for use by the first day our students return from summer break.”

There are no specific requirements as to what has to be included at a school’s playground. Schools have flexibility within their budgets to select something to meet their needs.

All schools should make sure they meet the safety specs for school playgrounds and use a reputable company, Pyle noted.  

Supervisor Shad Norris from Miracle Recreation said the company does roughly 50 playground installations each year. The firm will install “the basics,” including monkey bars, swings, slides and overhead ladders, Norris said. Work is expected to take a week. Members of the Sedalia 200 maintenance staff will complete the project, installing mulch and ground safety products following the equipment installation. 

“From the opening day our team will complete a weekly safety checklist to ensure that the equipment is in proper working order,” Pyle said. “School playground basic safety guidelines are focused on safe, accessible equipment that are size and age level appropriate. 

“Since we do the weekly safety checklist we take care of playground equipment more frequently than items on our five-year maintenance plan. If it becomes a safety hazard it becomes a priority and we would not wait on a specific five-year timeframe.”

While the playground at SMS is in the starting phases, children can enjoy the district’s other playgrounds throughout the summer.

“Our playgrounds are open to the public for use after normal school hours and when school is not in session,” Pyle said. “We encourage parents or guardians to make sure they are present at all times and play in the area is at their own risk when not on school time.”

Education Reporter

Hope Lecchi is the education reporter for the Democrat, covering all things education in Sedalia and Pettis County, as well as providing general assignment and feature coverage. She can be reached at 660-530-0144.

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