Each day, students gleefully leap across a vine of larger-than-life tomatoes on the playground at Banta Elementary School. The tomatoes are part of a series of new play structures that were added over the summer to the rural Tracy campus.

The climbing structures that depict everyday items found on a typical farm were added as a way to commemorate the school’s roots. The huge red ripe tomatoes that sprawl across the playground area are joined by a bright green tractor, bales of hay and a content looking black and white dairy cow.

“We wanted something that went along with our Ag school theme, and we were looking for updated playground equipment,” said Andi Lopez, business services supervisor for Banta Unified School District.

The new play structures replaced an outdated piece of equipment that consisted of side-by-side slides. Lopez said they considered renovating the slides, but found it was more cost efficient to replace the structure.

Another factor that school officials had to consider when choosing the new playground equipment was keeping in mind that students were going to be returning to campus full-time this year. This meant officials needed to consider ways to keep students socially distanced on the playground as part of COVID-19 protocols.

“For social distancing, the kids needed an area that they can spread apart,” Lopez said.

District officials approached Oakland-based Miracle Play Systems, which designed some of their existing playground equipment, to come up with a new design that best fit the school theme. A company representative presented the district with different concepts, and they decided to go with the unique tomato vine and other farm related pieces.

Lopez said the changes to the playground gave the students something new to come back to when they returned to campus.

The cost of the equipment was approximately $72,000 that was paid for through developer fees, which included new woodchips for the playground surface around the climbing structures. There are two additional pieces that will be added to the site in the coming months that include a wagon wheel bench and a rope bridge attached by two windmills.

“It’s a really nice feature since the school (playground) needed some updating,” Lopez said. “So far, the kids love it, so I think it’s great. They’re having a blast out there.”

• This is a contributed report by Denise Rizzo, Banta Unified School District public information officer.

• Contact Tracy Press at tpnews@tracypress.com or 209-835-3030.

 

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