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Published November 30th, 2016
Wagner Ranch Opens New Kindergarten Playground
From left. Jason Kaune, OUSD board member, Carol Brown, OUSD vice president and Dr. Carolyn Seaton, OUSD superintendent, jam at the opening of the new Wagner Ranch Kindergarten playground. Photo S. O'Doherty

Orinda Union School District Superintendent Carolyn Seaton wielded giant scissors and cut a blue ribbon to officially open Wagner Ranch Elementary School's new kindergarten playground Monday, Nov. 14.
The superintendent was assisted by OUSD Board President Julie Rossiter, vice president Carol Brown, and board members Sarah Butler, Jason Kaune and Matt Moran. The project, jointly funded by the school district and the Wagner Ranch Parents' Club, benefitted from a collaborative design process that sought input from teachers, aides, principal Jim Manheimer, school board members, and perhaps most importantly, children.
By relocating some parking spaces, the school was able to grow the kindergarten playground from 4,700 to 7,200 square feet. The playground can now accommodate 60-80 children.
Manheimer touted the new playground, which was almost a year in the making, as safe and good looking, and thanked the board of trustees for their vision in funding creativity. He especially credited former OSUD superintendent Dr. Joe Jaconette, current superintendent Seaton, and director of curriculum and instruction Cathy Marshall. Manheimer went on to thank a long list of people who helped bring the playground to life, but his highest praise went to Stuart House, director of facilities, maintenance and operations.
The playground was designed by HY Architects and Gates & Associates Landscape Architects and features a safe rubber surface under a creative play structure with shade features above. There is a twisting tricycle route and shiny red tricycles that were an immediate hit with the children.
Brown showed she was recovering well from her recent shooting during a driveway robbery by trying out the new musical components in the playground, a xylophone with beautiful tone, and getting up an impromptu band on the drums. It may be, as Manheimer quoted from Captain Kangaroo Bob Keeshan, that, "Play is the work of children; it is very serious stuff," but the board members seemed to be having a lot of fun.
Kelly Lotosky of Gates and Associates explained how the architects strove for a diverse and balanced play area that would include equipment that helps children develop in a variety of ways. For example, swings benefit inner ear and balance development. Several meetings with both parents and children involved the community in the selection of elements to encourage imaginative play including movement, climbing, music and organization. The tricycle trail was designed to allow the children to engage in a little adventure that could include stops at the different playground elements, and imaginary activities like "filling up with gas."

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