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Meeting Safety Standards Is No Kids Play for Day Care Owners

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FAYETTEVILLE — North Carolina day care centers have just eight months to get their playgrounds up to state standards. Thanks to some help from the state, it looks like they will meet their deadline.

Workers are already busy making the playgrounds safe, safe according to new state standards. To comply, playgrounds must have the appropriate fall space around equipment and fences must be a certain height.

The renovations cost thousands of dollars butCumberland County's Partnership for Childrenis offering to pay 75 percent of the cost. The program, funded bySmart Start, is expecting to help out 125 Cumberland County day cares.

"Right now we have about sixty to sixty-five that have responded to the project," says Tom Smith, Playground Safety Project Manager. "We expect everyone will [have responded] before it's over with, and we'll be working on all of those until the end of June."

Beginning January 2000, state inspectors will go to all day cares and aggressively enforce the new regulations. They will be writing violations. Any day care that does not make the necessary adjustments could eventually be shut down.

Day care owners like Claudine Caulder understand that the new standards will make play safer for kids. "If a child would fall out of a swing or jump from a swing or maybe jump from one of the teeter totters or anything, then they would fall on something cushion-y and it wouldn't be on some rocks or hard dirt," Caulder says.

Day care owners say if the new rules prevent even one serious injury, they will be worth the money and effort.

A recent survey found it is not only day care playgrounds that need work;The National Program for Playground Safetygave North Carolina aC-minusgrade, the national average.


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