Belle Terre to add mini-golf?

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  • | 4:00 a.m. April 21, 2011
  • Palm Coast Observer
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Superintendent Janet Valentine supports the idea. Board member Dance: Putt-putt a no-no.

Belle Terre Elementary School Principal Stephen Hinson is preparing to install an on-campus miniature golf course for Belle Terre recess use, according to his presentation Tuesday, April 19, to the School Board.

Currently, Belle Terre has the most students of any elementary school in Flagler County and the least playground equipment, according to Hinson. And out of 26 total district injuries recorded last year, Belle Terre students accounted for 12.

The extra space afforded to the school by a new construction project (See box: “Ground to break at Belle Terre”) will create five distinct recess areas, Hinson said, which will lower student density and “relieve most of our issues.”

The proposed nine-hole course could fit up to four students at each hole simultaneously — that’s double the number that can fit on playground equipment, he said. Also, an exercise trail will surround the course.

Putt-putt is a cheaper, safer recess option, Hinson continued. It’s also academically beneficial: Students keep score and think geometrically.

Plus, Hinson said, 49% of Belle Terre students polled are for the idea. Thirty-six percent of students said they’d rather have traditional playground equipment; 15% wanted field space. The School Board appeared split on the issue.

“(It’s) so students have a focus and something to do,” Superintendent Janet Valentine said. “I think it’s just a great idea.”

Board Vice Chairman Andy Dance was skeptical.

“You don’t need less playground equipment, you need more, and you need to spread it around,” he told Hinson. He suggested conducting a parent poll, as well as keeping playground equipment consistent around the district.

Board member Colleen Conklin was more concerned about money.

“We’re accountable to the taxpayers,” she said. Why would money be dumped into putt-putt when teachers are being laid off and their time reduced? she asked.

But the money source — from sales tax revenue — is from a capital fund, not general fund, Hinson and staff responded. It has been “sitting there” for about four years and cannot be used on anything but Belle Terre construction or equipment.

The course is estimated to cost $30,000 to $35,000. However, one piece of playground equipment, Hinson said, will cost $26,000 to $35,000, not including building, moving and installation. It wouldn’t last as long as a golf course, either, he said.

Still, can’t microscopes be considered classroom “equipment,” Conklin asked? Why not spend this money on core subject equipment?

Whether the funds are allocated for putt-putt, Valentine said, Belle Terre has had a problem with its playground structures since its opening. “(This is) 100% the way to go …” she said. “I think we’re headed in the right direction”

Regardless, Hinson ensured the Board that these plans do not mean traditional recess is a thing of the past.

Belle Terre has created a Playground Committee, he said, the duty of which it is to re-incorporate playground equipment into the school’s five-year plan. Eventually, he wants new, age-appropriate equipment placed in more strategic locations around the school and putt-putt course.

With the current equipment “dilapidated, old and beat up,” Hinson cited safety as his No. 1 concern. It was decided to shelve the putt-putt issue for further discussion and analysis.

A project to increase paved parking and permanently separate parent and bus traffic will soon be under way at Belle Terre Elementary School.

Along with clearing a portion of the north-side scrub growth, the northeast dry retention pond will be filled in, allowing construction of a campus soccer field. Another dry retention pond will be filled, providing increased recreational green space.

The extra space near the new bus loop could also serve as a daytime basketball area, Principal Stephen Hinson said.

This project will reduce traffic on Belle Terre Parkway and cut the need for bus and car “co-mingling,” according to project staff.

The low construction bid of $394,178 was awarded to 4 C’s Trucking Excavation Inc., of Bunnell. Funding is appropriated in the Board-approved 2010-2011 five-year work plan.

Contact Mike Cavaliere at [email protected]


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