Top 5 Things to Consider When Spending PTO/PTA Funds on New Playground equipment

As PTOs and PTAs are being asked to fund more needs of today’s schools, they are becoming key decision makers in the purchasing of everything from technology to supplies.  When it comes to deciding on new or add-on playground equipment for a school, here are the top 5 things to consider to help simplify the process for your organization.

  1. Timing – start early.  It goes without saying, timing is everything.  Many schools have key deadlines like the beginning of the school year or the end of winter weather that they are trying to work around.  Take your end date and lay out a plan that factors in aspects such as proposal and design completion, making necessary revisions (sometimes multiple revisions), community input and key decision-maker input as well as manufacturer lead times and installation lead times.  Knowing these things ahead of time can help to ensure you meet that deadline.
  1. Know your local district’s safety standards.  Different school districts have different standards that they adhere to which can impact choice of play equipment.  Knowing any restrictions ahead of time can make approval processes go more smoothly and save money too.  There are examples of entire playground initiatives that have had to be removed because they did not adhere to correct safety standards.  Although this is rare, knowing the standards, or partnering with someone who does, is worth the upfront investment of time.
  1. Compare apples to apples.  Another standard adage that is worth repeating.  If you receive bids from multiple vendors and see one that is significantly lower, there is often a reason behind the lower price.  Make sure that you do your homework to compare quality of equipment to cost of equipment.  A product that has been expertly manufactured may cost you more up front but may also pay dividends in repair or replacement costs down the line. Aesthetics can also be a consideration as equipment ages. Spend time looking at examples of other local playground equipment and talk to owners about their experience.  Often price differentials will become easier to understand.
  1. Pick the right partner.  When it comes to playground equipment, one size does not fit all.  Different schools have different populations, goals and needs.  Make sure to pick a company that is knowledgeable in the key areas:  safety, surfacing, regional differences, inclusive designs, levels of challenge, etc.  Building a playground includes a lot of dialogue and revision so choose a partner who cares about customer service throughout the entire process from design to installation.
  1. Keep your team on the same page.  Before moving forward with your purchase, be sure to allow various perspectives to be heard by all key decision-makers.  Invite the top three potential partners to come in and present their designs.  Although it can seem to save time to divide and conquer, do not miss opportunities to get input from everyone and share any research or reference conversations.  Ultimately, this can greatly impact how satisfied your team is with their purchase and help justify the decision to the community at large.

All Recreation remains your premier provider of commercial playgrounds, site amenities, safety surfacing, shades and shelters.  All Recreation is now serving Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.