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County inspection finds dangerous toys

Several pieces of equipment at the Coupeville Elementary School playground rank among the most dangerous, according to an inspection Island County conducted last month.

According to letters sent to school district officials, the stairs on a composite play structure create a head-entrapment hazard, as does a dome-shaped climbing apparatus.

School Board President Don Sherman said that funds from the recently approved $22.8 million bond would be directed toward new playground equipment.

“These are areas that we know are concerns ... we’re addressing the issues,” he said. “Clearly student safety is always a priority.”

According to a letter district Superintendant Bill Myhr sent to the school board Dec. 9, approximately $500,000 of the funds will go toward playground improvements.

Lori Clark, Island County environmental health specialist, conducted the inspections. She said that many of the infractions found were noticed last year and had yet to be corrected.

Some steps have been taken to correct some of the problems. The district has replaced the pea gravel around the playground with a softer bark mixture. But some problems, like the arch climber, remain.

“If a child could slip and their hip can go through, but their head can not, it would catch their heads and kill them immediately,” Clark said.

Myhr was unable to return a phone call to his home. Elementary School Principal Glenda Merwine said she had not seen the report yet and would not be able to comment until she had.

The inspection also found bottles of what appeared to be cleaning solutions that were unlabeled. Clark said the bottles pose a poisoning danger to children.

“We always have to mark (bottles) because we don’t want a kid getting ahold and drinking that or something,” Clark said.

According to the letter school officials received, toxic chemicals should be easily identified and stored in a way that would prevent children from using them improperly.

Clark found similar circumstances at the high school. First aid supply cabinets were not clearly labeled with their contents. Also, one of the drinking fountains did not have adequate water pressure to allow water to clear the nozzle.

Clark said said she does not have the authority to enforce the resolution of any of her findings.

“All we do is provide the information and make recommendations,” Clark said. “Ultimately it’s their liability.”

Clark said that proposed changes by the state board of health could result in county health officials being able to require changes be made.

“I would like to do that,” she said. “If there were something that were major and life-threatening to a child I would put more pressure on them.”

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