The entire student body at Cerra Vista Elementary School looked on Sept. 22 as Hollister School District leaders held a ribbon cutting to officially open the site’s new and much-improved playground.
At the ceremony’s outset, Principal Tami Ortiz spoke to nearly 700 excited students while introducing administrators and trustees on hand for the special event. She recalled to students how the new playground structures came to be.
“You were out here playing last year, and the big silver slide broke and the slide at this end broke,” Ortiz said, pointing at the play area and adding how other elements had been aging as well.
The principal told students she went to district officials who agreed it was time to install better equipment. That led to the new playground centerpiece that includes a variety of slides and other elements along with a new swing set with traditional swings and two-sided swings. The playground area also received a state-of-the-art surface upgrade with heightened shock absorption that allows easier access for students with disabilities.
The major upgrades at Cerra Vista are part of broader improvements to playgrounds throughout the district. Other schools with the new pour-in-place surface include Calaveras, R.O. Hardin, Sunnyslope and the Hollister Dual Language Academy—which also had a green turf area installed next to the playground. Surface improvements are coming to Ladd Lane in the next two to three months as well.
At Cerra Vista’s recent event, administrators and two trustees held the ribbon—Superintendent Erika Sanchez had the honor of cutting it—and then students lined up to give them high fives before cheerfully sliding down the structure one grade level at a time.
As children played gleefully in the background, Ortiz shared her experience of being at the school as a third-grade teacher about a decade ago and mentioned students getting splinters from the old equipment over the years. She and others said the goal was to improve safety and inclusiveness at the playground.
“It makes my heart happy that we now have a playground structure where all the kids in wheelchairs can come—any kids with special needs,” she said, adding how swing sets can help students deal with stress. “We really wanted to have an inclusive playground that also supports students’ social-emotional needs, and you can tell they’re over the moon.”
District Facilities Director Aaron Buzzetta said the structures have the newest materials and a level, pour-in-place rubber surface as opposed to shredded tires—which tended to scatter—where students previously had to step down onto the floor.
“All students can now play,” he said. “It’s just a fantastic addition.”
Buzzetta said the new Cerra Vista structure is the largest in the district, and he lauded the contractor KYA Group for being proactive and collaborative throughout the process. Joining Buzzetta and Sanchez from the district were Assistant Superintendent Kip Ward, Director of Educational Services Colleen Myers, Chief Business Officer Elizabeth Wilson, and Trustees Lisa Marks and Cathy Toste.
“I am excited,” said Marks, the school board president. “We wanted to give the kids a new playground, but I never envisioned it would be like this. This is extraordinary. I can see how kids of all ages will be able to enjoy the playground for years to come.”
Marks mentioned she lives in the neighborhood and was excited to bring her grandchildren to the playground. District play structures and fields are accessible to the public outside of school hours.
Toste said the new playground is all about enhancing students’ experiences and keeping them safe.
“A priority for me is the wellbeing of students and staff,” Toste said. “I just want everyone to feel safe and well, whether it’s a student or a teacher.”