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Washington Elementary playground to get $800,000 facelift

Current view of Washington Elementary School in Salt Lake City. Photo: Kelli Pierce

SALT LAKE CITY — The back playground at Washington Elementary School in downtown Salt Lake City will be renovated at a cost of $800,000.

Parents and administrators at the school say the project is way overdue — but it has caused controversy at other campuses in the Salt Lake City School District.

The steep hill that runs up against Quince Street will be regraded, giving students an extra 17,000 square feet of playing space. The yard will be re-landscaped and trees added. Crews will also add a retaining wall to keep kids safe.

The district’s Assistant Director of Auxiliary Services Ricardo Zubiate says the playground has caused a lot of problems over the past few decades.

“We get complaints from the community saying that it’s an eyesore, that it’s overgrown. We get transients that go and use it and live in it. Kids going out there and hiding and hanging out,” Zubiate says.

Ashley Anderson, the mother of two children who go to the school, is grateful the playground is being refurbished.

“The new design allows landscaping to the back that will please the community members who’ve been upset, and [there will be] more usable space down below so that teachers can keep a better eye on students. It’s safer, and it gives them more options,” Anderson said.

The district decided to approve the project after a survey from a group of second-graders at Washington found they have less play space than other schools in the area.

The group Women in Architecture has also been helping the school decide what the final project will look like by asking students’ opinions on certain designs.

But some parents have been critical of the district’s plans. They question why so much money is being spent at this one school while other campuses are in desperate need of new textbooks and other things.

District spokeswoman Yandary Chatwin says it’s cheaper for them, in the long run, to fix the problems at Washington Elementary School now. She also says money from the facilities fund, which covers the playground’s facelift, is different than the one to purchase textbooks.