Next year, the 3 to 5 year olds who attend the early childhood education program at Hollywood School in Brookfield will finally have some playground equipment that is designed for them. 

Last week the Riverside Elementary School District 96 Board of Education voted 5 to 0 to accept a bid of $33,807 to build a new playground at Hollywood School with equipment designed for 2 to 5 year olds. The present playground equipment at Hollywood School is designed for older kids.

“We’re filling a gap that is glaring for the preschool program,” said David Sellers, the District 96 interim director of finance and operations.

The school board decided not to spend an additional $54,000 to also replace the playground equipment at Hollywood which is designed for kids over the age of five. The district could have received a discount to replace the existing playground equipment, which is nearing the end of its projected useful life. 

But board members preferred to wait for a comprehensive review of the playgrounds at the district’s other schools before replacing the current equipment at Hollywood School.

The board is looking to upgrade the playgrounds at Central and Ames schools, but not this summer. The playground at Blythe Park School is considered the Cadillac of the Riverside parks and no upgrade is seen as necessary there.

Last fall, a playground committee was formed to look into improvements to the playgrounds at the district’s schools. The committee’s report presented the school board with a choice of just establishing an early learners playground at Hollywood this year or also replacing the existing Hollywood playground.

Kim Hefner, the principal of Hollywood School and a member of the playground committee, said while it would be nice to have all new playground equipment for next year she understood the board’s desire to move slowly and treat all the schools the same.

“We got the one we needed the most,” Hefner said. “It would have been nice to get both, but I understand the need to develop a district wide plan for what’s best for all of our kids.”

Sub pay increased

The District 96 board also voted to raise the pay of its substitute teachers by $10 a day. It’s the first increase in the basic rate of pay for substitute teachers in District 96 since 2009. 

Effective March 1, the regular pay for substitute teachers will increase to $105 a day from $95 a day for the first 20 days of a substitute teaching assignment. After 20 days, a substitute’s pay will increase to $115 a day. A couple months ago the school board increased the daily pay for long-term substitute teachers to $150 a day. 

The new basic rate of $105 day was established after the administration checked to see what other local districts pay. 

“We will not be the highest-paid district [and] we will not be the lowest which we tend to be at this point,” said Co-Interim Superintendent Griff Powell.

By raising the pay for subs, the district is trying to make itself more attractive to substitute teachers and deepen its sub pool. On some days this school year, the district has been unable to find a substitute for every teacher that was out and has had to pull paraprofessionals from their regular duties to take over a classroom.

Hauser elevator,
 paving approved

The school board also approved a $504,000 bid to construct an elevator for L.J. Hauser Junior High School. The Hauser-Central campus does not have an elevator and installing one has been a high priority for this school board and for parents of children with special needs.

The board also voted 5 to 0 to spend $436,165 to repave the parking lots at Hauser and Hollywood Schools this summer. The board decided not to spend nearly $60,000 extra to install permeable pavers on a portion of the Hauser parking lot. 

Board member Randy Brockway had strongly urged the board to install the permeable pavers, which puts less strain of the sewer system, but other board members did not think the benefit was worth the cost. 

Brockway was not at last week’s meeting and although Mary Rose Mangia initially suggested the board include the permeable pavers in the contract she ultimately went along with the other four board members present in approving a bid without the permeable pavers.

“If we could get a grant to do it I think we would say yes,” said school board President Jeff Miller of including permeable pavers. “I think the question more is, is the benefit we get from the permeable pavers worth the extra $60,000 we would have to pay with our own money?”