"We are really hoping through donations we can offset the costs," said Regina Martin, the school's director. "But we will install, one way or another."
If the fundraising effort does not provide enough money to cover the entire cost of the play structure and the soft, safety-cushion flooring mandated by new accreditation policy, the school will dip into its savings or turn to the church for help with the bill, Martin said.
Construction on the new play facility will begin in July and must be completed by late 2008, when the school is scheduled to undergo its physical inspection for renewal of their accreditation.
"The standards, they have just changed so dramatically that we've had to take a look at our facility," Martin said.
To be accredited through the National Assn. for the Education of Young Children, the school must adhere to more than 400 requirements ranging from their teachers' credentials to the physical traits of their facility.
The school's curriculum, which focuses on play- and activity-based lessons, will also be scrutinized. Martin and the staff have asked that each of the 93 families enrolled in the program try to raise $100 for donations.
"I'm glad that we are doing the upgrades necessary to keep our status," said Linda Tomb, mother of three children who either have, will be or are in the program at First United Methodist.
Her daughter, Emma, 4, was getting a butterfly painted on her hand.
"They focus on everything from large motor skills, like easel painting and riding bikes, to small motor skills," Tomb said.
"They do everything in a playful environment. That's the beauty of this place."
While parents stood watching their children cycle around in an oval in the parking lot, Howard Drossin knelt down and helped his son, Jacob, 4, tighten a training wheel during a pit stop.
After Jacob got a drink of water and his helmet had been secured, he took off.
"He's the one pretending he's actually in a race," Drossin said, standing in the middle of the makeshift track. "I'm just trying to make sure they don't crash into each other."
Jacob has been coming to the school for about a year now, Drossin said.
"This is a great community of parents," Martin said. "We're just trying to be prepared for our on-the-site visit."
RACHEL KANE covers education. She may be reached at (818) 637-3205 or by e-mail at rachel.kanelatimes.com.