The Hawai‘i State Department of Education (HIDOE) today announced an $18 million partnership with the nonprofit Hawaii 3R's to improve and replace public school playground equipment across the state.
The initiative aims to repair, replace or add approximately 100 playgrounds across the state. There are currently 545 playgrounds in service across the Department’s public schools and conversion charter schools.
“Student health and wellness is a top priority for the Department, and playgrounds are a great way to provide students opportunities to socialize and engage in physical activity,” Superintendent Keith Hayashi said. “We look forward to working with Hawaii 3R's on this initiative and thank them in advance for their hard work and dedication in expanding access to new and updated playground equipment for our students.”
Playgrounds benefit child development in a variety of ways beyond physical wellness, Hayashi said, noting such benefits as the expansion of social, emotional and imaginative skills, increasing confidence, improving coordination, and advancing critical thinking and problem-solving capabilities.
As part of its overall repair and maintenance program, the Department has been working to modernize and maintain playgrounds to ensure that the equipment is both fun and safe for students to use. In addition to general repairs, this effort includes refurbishing playgrounds with artificial turf or rubber surfacing to meet new safety requirements as well as modernizing existing playground designs to ones that are both attractive and challenging for students.
This partnership with Hawaii 3R's will target dedicated funding and resources to expedite the work.
Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke emphasized this initiative as the legacy of the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, who started Hawaii 3R's in 2001 with the aim of helping to eliminate the repair and maintenance backlog in public schools.
“One of the things that is surprisingly really difficult to figure out and build is playground equipment because it is very specialized,” she said at a press event Monday at Pauoa Elementary School. “Especially in Hawai‘i, we have to be mindful of the salt concentration in the air for the safety of the equipment, and as you can see, today’s playground equipment is not like what we played on when we were young.”
“It’s very appropriate that we kick off this initiative today, which is the 10th anniversary of Senator Inouye’s passing,” said Hawaii 3R's Board Member Linda Chu Takayama. “He is probably looking down on us, giving his appreciation and blessing for how we are continuing and expanding his program to provide repair, maintenance and restoration for all of the public schools in our state. This was a project very near and dear to his heart and we are very pleased to be a part of this.”
Playgrounds for repair or replacement will be determined by factors including age, condition and location. While the majority of the impacted playgrounds will be at elementary schools, new playground equipment on middle schools will also be piloted on each island.
As a reminder to the public, to keep these playgrounds safe for student use, public school playgrounds are open during school hours only. Any use of the facilities during non-school hours that is unrelated to student activities is prohibited.