AUGUST 2023 UPDATE
If you have passed behind the school you may have seen some activity on the playground improvements but obviously not a new field yet. Here's a comprehensive update.
The focus of this effort has been on improving the unsafe field conditions, as the field has become exposed rock and the granite track has washed away. This effort culminated in a big fundraising push last spring that many of you have contributed to. We worked diligently but have run into a myriad of issues with AISD bureaucracy and later City of Austin approvals. After false hope of being able to install in early July it became evident that the only way forward was with full site engineering and construction permits through the City of Austin. The good news is that the Construction Management Division at AISD is taking on management of the project as well as permitting and has hired an engineer; all at their own expense. They have provided a detailed work plan to get the project installed by December. If the popularity of the large piece of sample turf we left on the field is any indication, the field installation is greatly anticipated. (see pictures at the end)
We worked hard to avoid complications but even on a seemingly simple project things got very complicated. We are thankful for the leadership that Trustee Lynn Boswell and Councilmember Ryan Alter have provided in trying to navigate the process with the District and City.
The field may be delayed but we have continued to move forward on other projects that, with your generous support, will dramatically improve the experience for our students.
After much persistence we got the district to install new engineered wood fiber (fancy mulch) in the playscape so it will be safer for falls, less muddy and more attractive. They have also ordered pieces to fix the broken parts of the playscape.
Longer term - We also got word today that Zilker Elementary was approved for a whole new playscape for the older kids! Also, the younger kids playscape that was cut off from student use by the new fence will be replaced inside the fenced part of the school. We do not have a timeline for when these would be installed but it is very exciting!
We installed large stone blocks to prevent the erosion that had covered the court in dirt and rocks. These blocks of varying heights also serve as seating and a play area for the students!
After the stone wall was installed, it allowed us to have the entire court professionally cleaned and restriped for basketball and four square. The court looks great and is ready for kids to be back at school. We actually had extra stones from this project to use elsewhere on campus, right now they provide an outdoor classroom area under some shade behind the playset.
Gaga Ball Pit
The ever-popular gaga ball pit has been painted and resurfaced with artificial turf. Drainage has been fixed so it’s not a mud pit and turf has been installed so it's ready for use!
We will continue to push the district to stay on schedule and maintain transparency and communication on the field portion of the project and the commitment for the new playscapes the district is paying for. We are also looking for ways to pair up any work done on the field to improve drainage to mitigate the existing flooding issues. In the meantime, we will continue working on landscaping and mulch improvements to improve the play area/ outdoor learning area of campus. We will also continue to work on the details for the donor recognition sidewalk to coincide with the completion of the turf.
We are thankful for your patience in working through what has become a complicated process. We are very thankful for everyone who has given time and money to making things safer and more fun for our students.
When you get a chance, check out the space with your kids!
Playground Improvement Project
Zilker Elementary is a Great Place for Kids! However, you have seen for yourself or heard from students about the poor conditions of the Zilker outdoor play areas. The dusty/muddy playfield, the uneven gravel track, and the debris covered blacktop are far from being a great place!
Social skills, physical education and exercise are vital parts of the Zilker student experience. However, the existing condition of the outdoor play areas has deteriorated from an already low-quality condition to a dangerous one. The new State requirement for PE every day has increased the use and exacerbated these poor conditions. With the 2022 bonds already committed to other district needs there will not be public dollars available for this significant need in the foreseeable future. Our kids deserve better.
The Playground Improvement Project is an initiative by the Zilker PTA to lead Zilker Families and Friends to raise money to address these urgent needs. This is a separate fundraising initiative from the annual “Zilker Fund” which raises money for regular operational and programming expenses. We highly encourage you to also donate to the Zilker Fund but the PIP is for long term capital improvements and requires a separate effort and allocation. The largest needed capital improvement is replacement of the current dirt soccer field with an artificial turf surface that will meet the PE and recreation needs of the students and also serve after-school, special event and community needs. In addition, the eroding granite track will be replaced with a proper turf running surface. These projects include drainage improvements to mitigate the unsafe drainage and erosion issues on this portion of the school property. Improvements will also be made to the existing blacktop area to add seating for outdoor education and divert water, mud, and erosion away from the basketball courts. Smaller projects around the site will also include landscaping and improvements to the existing playground area and gaga ball court. We have already added two new removable basketball goals that are mounted at 7.5' for the smaller children to enjoy, but this is only the start.
The Playground Improvement Committee has been working since Spring 2022 on a design solution that has been refined following consultations with designers and 8 turf installation companies. This has resulted in two final bids from the best suited contractors. Based on the preferred bids, the overall fundraising goal is $185,000 which represents the total bid plus a 10% contingency and donor recognition costs. If costs come in at or below price the extra funds will be allocated to additional improvements and ongoing maintenance.
YOU CAN HELP:
To begin construction, it simply comes down to raising the money... and that effort is already underway. We understand that not all Zilker families may have the capability to give at the level that matches their desire to help, but we would ask that everyone give what they are able to. Additionally, we ask for help in spreading the word about the project to businesses and other family and friends who may also be interested in giving or sponsoring.
To kick us off...
PAZ Veterinary will help us reach our goal by
matching each dollar donated up to
|Zilker Panther||$10+||Pays for a square foot of turf!|
|Friend of Zilker Elementary||$100+||Name in Ribbon Cutting Program|
|Landscaping Bronze Sponsor||$500+||Donor Plaque|
|Blacktop Silver Sponsor||$1,000+||4"x8" Red Donor Brick|
|Running Track Gold Sponsor||$2,500+||8"x8" Red Donor Brick|
|Field Turf Platinum Sponsor||$5,000+||12" Panther Paw Print Plaque|
|Project Signage Sponsor||$10,000+||1'x2' Permanent Field Signage|
|Signature Project Sponsor||$50,000+||4'x4' Permanent Signage|
Contributions directed to this project will be allocated solely for this project, and are tax deductible.
How to make your donation:
You can donate using a Credit Card, ACH bank transfer, Apple Pay or Google Pay - (processing fee applies). To avoid processing fees, you can drop off a check in the school main office during school hours, donate via Zelle to firstname.lastname@example.org, or initiate an ACH/wire/bank transfer from your bank. Please contact Steve Hoffman at email@example.com for the details needed for a bank transfer. Receipts can be provided by paper or email.
Due to your generosity our kids will have a safe and more inviting place for outdoor activity, learning, team play, and lifelong memories. In addition these improvements will serve after-school activities, family picnics, and a wonderful gathering place for the ZFiesta, Zamboree, school concerts, and other special events we hold in Zilker Elementary’s “backyard”!
For FAQ’s and project updates reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
Early February - We have finalized project plans and received a final detailed bid
Late February - Successful fundraiser event with our foundational donors - Thank you!
Early March - We are in continuing coordination with AISD on final installation details - aiming for a spring installation.
Mid April - The project has been approved and AISD has offered to cover the cost of adding an impact pad. We are finalizing permits and working to establish a date for installation that doesn't conflict with existing commitments.
Late April - MAJOR UPDATE...
Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed to the Playground Improvement Project and thank you to the volunteers helping to push the project forward. We continue to make progress on fundraising and are moving towards having a better outdoor play and learning area for Zilker Elementary!
The installation of the turf and track portion is taking longer than we had hoped but our PTA Grounds Committee is making steady progress. We have been working with AISD district staff and have finalized the construction details and selected a contractor. We were working very hard to install the turf before field day however, we were thrown a curveball and found out we would have to go through City of Austin permitting. The bad news is this will push the installation into the summer, the good news is it will make installation much easier, as it will not conflict with the daily school activities. As we continue to work through the City of Austin process we will also look at advancing some other playground improvements so that when the students return in the fall their outdoor play experience will be greatly improved. We are so close to realization of the PIP!
Please do your part by spreading the word about the project.
A donation of any amount from individuals and companies helps improve the outdoor experience for our students!
Reach out with questions or suggestions to email@example.com