Last year, second-grade students at Parr’s Ridge Elementary School in Mount Airy measured the temperature of the school’s slides at 100 degrees.
This year, however, school officials have installed shade structures on the playground in order to cool off the equipment and protect students from the potential harm of the sun’s rays.
The structures will be unveiled during a ceremony at 3 p.m. Friday at the school, at 202 Watersville Road.
The umbrella-shaped structures stand about 12-feet high and cost about $9,000 combined. The school received an $8,000 grant from the American Academy of Dermatology last year, which paid for a portion of the project. The remainder was paid by the Carroll County Public Schools’ facilities department, according to Ray Nowicki, a buyer for the school system.
Fabric on the structures is made of high-density plastic with ultraviolet additives that block 95 percent of UV rays, Nowicki said.
Constructed over the summer, the structures protect play areas, including a slide on the school’s front playground.
The school’s Green Team applied for the grant last year, after Tina Swanson, a music teacher at the school and leader of the team, came across the shade structure grant program while researching ideas for building an outdoor classroom shade structure near the school’s butterfly garden.
“We have three major garden areas, and the biggest garden area the students like to go out and explore,” Swanson said. “I was looking online to see what shade structures existed and then came across the grant.”
The AAD’s grant program awards grants to public schools and nonprofit organizations to install permanent shade structures in outdoor areas that are not protected from the sun, including playgrounds and pools. Since 2000, more than 260 shade structure grants have been awarded to organizations across the country, according to the ADA.
The structures should last about 10 years, Swanson said. A plaque from the academy about sun safety will also be placed at the playground.
In addition to demonstrating a commitment to sun safety and skin cancer awareness, the school had to be sponsored by a local dermatologist to be awarded the grant. Dr. Juris P. Germanas, whose practice — Maryland Dermatology Associates — has offices in Mount Airy and Westminster, sponsored the school.
“It’s all about prevention of skin cancer,” Germanas said. “It’s basically about letting kids have somewhere to play outside without having them risk getting sun burn and possibly getting skin cancer later in life. ... The sun causes damage to DNA of skin cells and that can lead to skin cancer.”
Germanas will be speaking to students at the unveiling ceremony Friday about sun safety.