BLOOMFIELD — The principal at Naaba Ani Elementary School in Bloomfield is asking the community for help improving its playground including fixing drainage problems and smoothing uneven and rut-filled playground surfaces.

The goal is to prevent student injuries, she said.

In an April letter posted on the school's website, Principal Sharon Jensen said small ruts and divots have formed on the playground's hard surface where 504 fourth, fifth and sixth grade students play tag and football. She also described drainage problems originating from a subdivision of homes located to the north of the school.

Jensen said she felt a renewed desire to improve the conditions after a New Mexico Public Education Department report described the playground as "vast and sparse."

Fourth-grade students play basketball on Wednesday, the last day of school at the Naaba Ani Elementary school in Bloomfield.
Fourth-grade students play basketball on Wednesday, the last day of school at the Naaba Ani Elementary school in Bloomfield. (Megan Farmer /The Daily Times)

"It's something that is done yearly but when I got the copy of it in August (2013), it talked about how vast and sparse and basically dangerous our playground was," Jensen said.

The school's playground features two swing sets with four swings each, two jungle gyms, a kickball field with a torn-up "turf" surface and a basketball court which floods and turns muddy following rainstorms as runoff from the housing development drains onto the court.

About $25,000 was set aside to spend this school year on playground improvements and Jensen said she hopes to spend it on playground equipment but the grounds need to be resurfaced before any equipment can be installed.

The Bloomfield School District is facing a tighter budget as oil and gas tax revenue has dropped, said Gary Giron, the district's director of finance and operations.

The changes have postponed major construction work for the next couple of years as the district focuses on managing its infrastructure and facility repairs from its capital outlay fund.

"We have to live with our resources and come up with plans to help our students," Superintendent Joe Rasor said. "We're extremely pleased with companies and individuals that have stepped up to help us improve the whole playground."

Fourth-grade students play basketball on Wednesday, the last day of school, at the Naaba Ani Elementary school in Bloomfield.
Fourth-grade students play basketball on Wednesday, the last day of school, at the Naaba Ani Elementary school in Bloomfield. (Megan Farmer /The Daily Times)

Two people from local companies have stepped to help design and improve the grounds, which will help prepare the space for new equipment.

James Dennis of the architect firm James R. Dennis and Associates has helped draw up a preliminary master plan to guide improvement of the site.

"The biggest thing that needs to happen is the surface needs to be regraded," Dennis said.

James Dennis got involved in the project after hearing from his wife Karen Dennis, the school nurse, about the condition of the grounds.

Johnny Stinson of Adobe Contractors said he plans on hauling in some dirt to build a playing area and working on improving the playground surfaces for students.

"Give the kids someplace better, safer to play," Stinson said. "That ground there is pretty hard."

Giron said the school will be allocated about $50,000 for the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 schools year for playground improvements and Jensen said a couple of other companies have expressed interested in helping out as the project comes together.

Sixth grade student James Hayton said some vegetation would be a nice sight on the playground.

"I actually would like to see some trees or plants, some shade," Hayton said. "I wish there was more stuff."

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.