By Maggie Koerth, Bryn Mawr Elementary School parent

Even the best intentions can cause harm. That’s a lesson our students at Bryn Mawr Elementary School are learning from the recent school board decision to pause new playground construction.

Everyone involved in this decision had laudable goals. Students at Ella Baker Global Humanities Magnet School want a playground that is accessible to their disabled classmates. The school board wants to make sure that need is met at all schools, not just one. And if the schools that had been scheduled to get new playgrounds this summer were merely dealing with out-of-date equipment, a construction pause might have been a great choice. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

At Bryn Mawr Elementary School, children from across multiple Near North neighborhoods are stuck using a playground that is broken, falling apart, and increasingly unsafe. Five parts of our jungle gym are boarded up, and the boards regularly leave children with large splinters. A slide has been removed, as has our hanging bridge.

Other pieces of equipment are also broken or deteriorating, from the shattered backstop on the basketball hoop to the patches of flaking, rusted metal that cling to the balance beam like a rash.

Kids are frustrated with this playground. Kids get hurt on this playground. Staff involved in Bryn Mawr Elementary School’s autism program have told our site council that they are afraid to let their students use this playground.

A broken basketball backboard on the Bryn Mawr Elementary School playground. Photo by Bryn Mawr Elementary School parent Jennifer Ikoma-Motzko

Bryn Mawr Elementary School has been a wonderful, nurturing environment where my kids have learned and blossomed. But it is also an under-resourced Title 1 school with a tiny PTA that can barely afford to buy meals for teachers during conferences. We don’t usually get the nice stuff, the new stuff. We were all very excited to finally get a playground that met our needs. Currently we’ve been left in limbo with a playground that is not accessible, not equitable, and not safe.

The district has not communicated well with our school about what is going on with the playground repairs. We were left to piece together, on our own, that we would not be getting the playground we had been waiting on for years.

In the past week, through personal communication with various district representatives, I have heard that our existing playground is being repaired, that it might be repaired provided the district can find replacement parts for 20-year-old equipment, and that no one really knows what will happen to our playground until the board makes a decision at the June 11 meeting.

A rusted balance beam is one of the deteriorating pieces of playground equipment at Bryn Mawr Elementary School. Photo by Bryn Mawr Elementary School parent Jennifer Ikoma-Motzko

We just want a playground our kids can really use. We support the goal of making playgrounds across the district more accessible. But if that means no new playground in the coming school year, then our kids deserve to have major repairs made to the existing equipment this summer. Students, parents and guardians, staff and teachers, Northside community members– we are all asking the Minneapolis Public Schools school board to not make our kids go another year with equipment that doesn’t meet the basic standard of quality available at other schools in the district.

We hope they will listen.

Minneapolis Schools Voices reached out to the district about the Bryn Mawr Elementary School playground. The district provided the following statement, attributed to the Capital Projects, Construction and Maintenance Department:

"The Bryn Mawr playground has two structures that need to be repaired. MPS has reached out to vendors for quotes for replacement parts. Playground repairs would be conducted over the summer if the parts are readily available. We are also obtaining quotes to replace the hanging walkway and the slide. All other items in the inspection report are being repaired by MPS crews.

A contract for a new playground for Bryn Mawr was recommended at an April 23 school board meeting. To further review playground accessibility standards, the school board did not approve that contract along with new playgrounds at two other MPS schools."