Facility Profile - September 2011
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All Aboard the Play Express
Kids Express Preschool in Lancaster, Pa.

By Ian Proud

Kids Express Preschool in Lancaster, Pa., has been in operation for 20 years and currently serves 110 preschoolers ranging in age from 2 to 5 years old. An accredited member of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), the school is affiliated with Grace Church at Willow Valley.

At Kids Express Preschool, teachers encourage experimentation, discovery and creativity, and indoor and outdoor exploratory play is an integral part of the school day. While hands-on activities and curriculum offer structured play opportunities, a playground provides children a much-needed outlet for free outdoor play.

When the school's playground apparatus began to show signs of age and wear, director Tina Palguta was faced with the task of searching for new equipment. The existing wooden clubhouse structure with two swings was falling apart.

Part of the problem was that the equipment was intended for residential, not commercial, use. Residential playground equipment doesn't have to withstand the same degree of usage as commercial counterparts and therefore is not required to meet the same rigorous manufacturing standards. However, with commercial options ranging from around $15,000 to $150,000, many organizations working within tight budgets have to settle for non-commercial playground products.

With a budget of only $8,000 (excluding ground surfacing), Tina began researching the options. She searched on the Web and narrowed the field of manufacturers down to three. Although the companies provided options within the school's budget, Tina wasn't completely satisfied with the equipment she was getting for the money.

"One of our staff members attended the ACSI conference in Lancaster, and when he spoke with a Playworld Systems' rep, he learned they were about to introduce a new more economical line of playground equipment," Palguta said. "This was what we wanted."