First they came for the merry-go-rounds. Then the monkey bars disappeared. Now, the swings are on their way out.
When Badger Mountain and Tapteal elementary students arrived for school this fall they discovered that the schools no longer have swing sets.
Richland School District officials had them replaced this summer, and some parents aren’t happy about it.
But the phasing out of swings and other traditional playground fixtures isn’t new. Kennewick schools don’t have them and Pasco removed them from their school playgrounds more than 20 years ago. The reason? Mostly because of the risk of students being hurt.
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“I don’t necessarily disagree with the parents (who want swings). I grew up with them,” said Mark Panther, Richland’s executive director of support services. “But it’s a matter of liability.”
Richland has been gradually removing swing sets for more than a decade, he said.
Districts are required to have certified staff inspect playgrounds and determine any possible risks the equipment can pose to children.
That’s led school officials to remove metal objects, which can have sharp edges or become too hot in the sun, or anything that moves with a child and can lead to a fall, such as swings and merry-go-rounds.
Some seemingly safe playground toys are removed after their age makes them unsafe.
Rocking animals on springs designed for children to ride on were removed at several Richland schools, after weathering made the plastic crack, leading children to get their hands stuck or cut, said Panther.
Sacajawea, Marcus Whitman and Wiley elementary schools still have swing sets on their playgrounds. However, swings at Sacajawea and Marcus Whitman will be removed and replaced soon enough — new buildings are being built at each site and will come with new playground equipment. It’s not known how much longer swings will be at Wiley.