I know things are on fire everywhere. I know people are dying. I know that there are plenty of places to place our concern and woe.
But I'm asking for just a moment of your time.
When I arrived at school Monday morning, there was a pickup parked on our playground. Next to it was a porta-pottie, the kind you tend to see around construction sites. For a moment, my heart leapt: maybe this will finally be the moment that our playground gets resurfaced. Having spent my entire teaching career of twenty-four years here at Horace Mann Elementary, I know that it has been at least that long since the asphalt under our kids' feet has been cracking, eroding and peeling away. Which is not to say that there have not been some half-hearted attempts at patching or repairing the fissures and holed that have cropped up over that time. These gestures have not kept us from falling behind the disintegration of our yard.
Earlier this fall, a group of five trucks and ten individuals showed up to attack the sinkhole that had opened up on one of our basketball courts. I wandered out and waited for an opening to ask if they might also be there to attend to the general crumbling of our surface. I was told, "No, we're just here to fix this one hole." They did that job in a timely fashion and left a large rectangle of fresh pavement to show off to anyone who might have stopped by.
No one has. The school has been empty for all intents and purposes for the past ten months. A project as large and encompassing as resurfacing our playground might have been completed a few times by now. That's not what is happening. And when I approached the truck this past Monday, I asked the gentleman who was sitting behind the wheel, gazing at documents and plans what he had in store for us.
He told me that he and his crew would be spending the next few days tearing down and replacing the concrete wall and steps. Outside the fence around our playground. Not the yard where five to eleven year olds romp and play during the course of a regular school year. Not that big space left vacant by distance learning and COVID protocols. No small people to get underfoot or in the way of all that machinery.
I mentioned this to the gentleman in the truck, a contractor for the district who goes where he is asked and builds what he is told to build. He looked at the sorry state of our playground and sympathized with me. For a moment or two. Then it was time for him to meet with an engineer who was going to help figure out just how to complete the project in front of them.
The playground will have to wait.