Sea Cliff Elementary School will be the last school in the district to have its playground reconstructed after months of removing potentially toxic mulch. The mulch was spread at the elementary schools over 10 years ago.
Nick Virgilio, a parent of children in the school district, raised the issue of whether the playgrounds were safe to the North Shore Board of Education last March. He became concerned about the mulch when he saw children covered in, and ingesting, its residue.
“The toxins that are being exposed to kids now might not be visible until they reach their 20s or 30s,” Virgilio said.
He did some research online last year to find out more about the mulch. When he found out that it was made from recycled tires, he urged the board to remove it. “If you know it’s carcinogenic,” he said, “why bother having it here?”
Virgilio said he was backed by several parents in the district, and that their concerns steadily grew. Once he persuaded the board and the district’s Construction Steering Committee that the mulch should go, they asked about alternatives for the playgrounds. He said wood chips would be the most viable option, and the board agreed with his suggestion.
“I was grateful that they did their due diligence,” Virgilio said. “And I was happy with their efforts because they really stepped up and did the right thing.”
Superintendent Dr. Ed Melnick updated community members on the status of the playground at Sea Cliff Elementary at a board meeting on March 9. Right now there is a large pile of dirt there and some pipes piled nearby. The old mulch has all been removed. When weather permits, workers will resume their efforts to replace it.
Melnick explained that harsh weather had delayed the reconstruction, and added that workers found rubber mulch deeper in the ground than expected. Progress was further delayed when they found a layer of wood fiber underneath the rubber, which must also be removed to ensure that the new playground surface will last as long as it should.
Virgilio’s latest suggestion to the board was to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony when the playground is completed.