Students returning to Moscow’s A.B. McDonald Elementary will be greeted with all-new playground equipment in the fall.

McDonald Principal Kim Mikolajczyk said while some of the older equipment remains, including a popular climbing structure and a set of multi-tiered monkey bars, the school spent about $25,000 purchasing and installing three new play structures.

“We did think long and hard about whether or not to just level the whole playground and fundraise, but ... it can get up to about $100,000,” Mikolajczyk said. “That’s an insane amount of money, and I don’t think it’s a great use for what we want.”

According to Mikolajczyk, about 75 percent of the bill was picked up through fundraising efforts of the school’s Parent Teacher Organization, and students were able to vote on which structures they wanted to see included in the final plan.

While they weren’t able to purchase all of the “bells and whistles” with their $25,000 budget, Mikolajczyk said, the new play equipment is intended to accommodate a high volume of students. She said McDonald serves nearly 400 students in a given year, meaning around 200 could be using the playground at a given time. Additionally, she said, having a structure that multiple children can play on at once encourages development of social skills.

“One of the things that I was really interested in when we were looking at new playground structures was to give as many children as possible the ability to be on it at the same time,” Mikolajczyk said. “I wanted the structures to not only encourage physical activities but social-emotional interaction.”

McDonald isn’t the only Moscow school aiming to improve its students’ play space. For the past two years, nearby Lena Whitmore Elementary has raised about $73,000 through parent-, teacher- and student-led efforts toward a $200,000 goal with the hopes of fully refurbishing their aging playground.

Lena Whitmore Principal Kendra McMillan said a big part of the push is to make the playground not just ADA-compliant, but “ADA-friendly.” She said it is for this reason that they will be replacing their technically ADA-compliant bark chip ground covering with flat, rubber tiles identical to those at Moscow’s East City Park. McMillan said play is an important part of the learning experience, and her counterpart at A.B. McDonald agrees.

Mikolajczyk said she believes allocating time and resources for play as a part of a child’s educational experience is essential to learning. She said allowing time for social interaction without adult intervention has a number of benefits, including allowing children to practice interpersonal problem solving in the safe, relatively low-stakes environment of recess.

“I know there’s some different philosophies on recess, but my philosophy is they need to play and they need to have unstructured time to play,” she said. “Getting this equipment is helping that philosophy that they can have some down time before they’re back in the classroom and learning new things.”

Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to

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