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Facilities Planning

Playground Installations


Reference Guide #C.4 and #C.5

Many boards of education, often at the urging of a local PTA or other parent group, are considering the construction of playground installations which have a scope of work well beyond the purchase and installation of traditional swings, slides, and merry-go-rounds. These playground installations are usually configured using assemblies of wood, poles, and old tires, and incorporate features such as slide poles, balancing beams, suspension bridges, and platforms.

These playground installations are capital construction projects involving structural design and require a building permit. As such, plans and specifications for such installations must comply with applicable provisions of the State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code and must be submitted to, and approved by, the Commissioner of Education, the same as any other capital construction project having construction costs of $10,000 or more.

Please note that playground projects which involve only the installation of pre-engineered factory-built equipment do not require a building permit, nor the submission of plans and specifications for approval by the Commissioner of Education.

Proper Authorization

If the playground installation involves the expenditure of any school district funds, approval of the project by the voters is required.

If the entire costs of the project (design, materials, labor, etc.) are covered by donations (i.e., no expenditure of district funds), no vote is required; however, there must be a formal resolution of the Board of Education to accept and utilize the donations for a capital construction project.

Plans and Specifications

If the cost of the project, in the case of school district funds, or the value of the project, in the case of donations, exceeds $5,000, the services of an architect or engineer are required to develop plans and specifications and supervise the construction of the project. If the cost or value of the project is over $10,000, approval of plans and specifications by the Commissioner is required.

Plans, bearing the seal and signature of the architect/engineer on each drawing, shall be complete, detailed, and dimensioned, and shall designate where, and how, the various materials make up the complex, including a cross-reference to any supplemental detail drawings.

The plans must bear a certification by the architect/engineer that the design conforms to applicable provisions of the State Uniform Code (particularly Article 7, pertaining to structural Requirements) and that the design meets or exceeds the requirements of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, "A Handbook for Public Playground Safety," Volumes I and II.

Specifications bearing the seal and signature of the architect/engineer on the cover page shall establish specific criteria for site preparation and all of the various materials used in the project. In the case of donated materials, the specifications could take the form of a list of specified donated materials that are required. However, the architect/engineer must establish a procedure to ensure that the materials received do, in fact, conform to the specifications.

The specifications must detail specific criteria for the installation of materials and workmanship, whether the project is constructed by contract or by donated labor. Also, the specifications may incorporate sheets of any supplemental detail drawings that are not incorporated in the layout drawings.

When the project is being advanced with school district funds, the specifications must also include the usual statutory requirements pertaining to public works.

Commissioner’s Approval

The procedure to make an application for the Commissioner's approval of a playground installation is the same as for any other capital construction project.