Swingsets and Apple Pie - Two Great American Icons

Following up on something I ran across today, I searched the internet for stories about the removal of swings from school playgrounds in a county in West Virginia. Sure enough, there is plenty of buzz about it. One good source of information was today's West Virgina Record, an online legal journal.

Turns out the county schools safety manager has decided the cost of maintaining the required safety surfacing under all of the swingsets in the school system is too expensive, as is the cost of the lawsuits filed against Cabell County Schools (two in the past year) for injuries sustained on swingsets. So he's having swings removed from all of the county's elementary schools.

As someone who has designed plenty of playgrounds, I can understand his problem. Swings require a very large area of safety surfacing compared to other elements on a playground, which takes time and money to install and maintain properly.

This situation brings up a lot of questions. Like, what is the value of play, relative to other things the school has to pay for? Are swings more valuable than other play elements, enough so to justify the extra expense of providing them? And is depriving kids of the opportunity to swing on the school playground just plain "un-American"? Some people seem to think so.

I have my own thoughts on these questions, but the fact is, it's hard to point to reliable sources for definitive answers. Yet these are turning out to be important questions. Important enough that a state senator has gotten involved. Senator Evan Jenkins, D-Cabell has asked the Cabell County Schools Superintendent to suspend the removal of swings from playgrounds until the matter can be looked at more fully. Jenkins is asking interesting questions, like what the history of injuries from swingsets really is in Cabell and statewide; and how much removing swingsets from school playgrounds will save the county on its insurance premiums.

If nothing else, this story points out that child's play is a lot more complicated than people think, and a lot more important, too, in today's complicated world. That makes what we do here at Design Concepts just a little more worthwhile, I think.
Rob Layton