South Routt students celebrate new play space |

South Routt students celebrate new play space

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The call signaling the end of morning recess came way too quickly for the group of kindergartners on Thursday at South Routt Elementary School in Yampa.

“But we were having fun,” one kid moaned, doing his best to convince his teacher for a few more minutes.

While the snow-covered recess was dominated by laughter and shrieks of delight, there was one girl who didn’t have gloves on the sunny but bitter cold morning. Through tears, another boy told the teacher he fell on his nose.

Recess looks a bit different this year — the students stay within their small cohorts all day. They are only permitted to play on one of the seven playground areas, rotating the following day after the areas are sanitized each evening.

And mask wearing and keeping physical distance between themselves and their teachers and friends have now become the norm.

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Despite the weird reality of living in a pandemic, the year is going well, said South Routt Elementary School Principal Rose Swenson.

A lot of the kids go out to recess and don’t even remember they can take their masks off, she said.

And by being contained to only one small area of the playground, they’ve gotten more creative in the games they invent.

Swenson also has seen some “really cool bonding take place in the cohorts.”

But the many challenges and adjustments this year was all the more reason the whole school was so excited to get a brand new play space.

“We really wanted something new and fun for the kids to look forward to,” Swenson said.

Through a partnership with the nonprofit KABOOM!, grant writer Emily Beyer was able to secure funding, Swenson said.

And every student had the opportunity in September to give input into the design of their new structure. They each created a drawing of their ideal play set, all of which were then taken into consideration by the designers.

With bright blue and green slides, bridges and climbing walls, the play place was opened to the kids at the end of October.

It also has a music area, a kid-powered merry-go-round and an animal tracks interactive game.

KABOOM! is dedicated to expanding play space equity and has built or improved more than 17,000 playground across the country.

The group typically enlists community volunteers to help with the preparation work and build, but with the pandemic, Swenson said a community volunteer day wasn’t an option.

However, Anthony Zywicki, the district’s maintenance director, did all the site preparation work and removed the old structure, she said, so that more of the grant money could be put toward the equipment.

The play space also has a track glider — added to the design based on the widespread popularity among the students of including a zip line.

The younger kids will be able to reach it once they get more snow, Swenson noted.

There were ideas that didn’t make it in, like a beat box station and an ice cream shop.

But the double slide was another popular request that did come to fruition and is proving a big hit, Swenson said, and the designers took general inspiration from the numerous drawings of a ’Ninja-Warrior’ style playground.

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