Questions for Tonight's MPS Listening Session

Before tonight’s listening session (6pm @ Howe Elementary) with Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) leadership it may be beneficial to share some of the questions surrounding the removal of playgrounds, including Cooper, and what the future of MPS properties holds. And I think it is important for anyone who has comments/questions for MPS to speak up now, whether it is a simple point of clarification or sharing fond memories of the playground(s).

That said, here is a list of questions that have been sent to MPS in advance of the meeting (courtesy of resident Tom Pryor):


  • Would MPS need to resolve all Priority 1 through 3 issues identified in its inspection report to consider the playground usable?
  • Based on manufacturer catalogs, it looks like the cost of replacing the “clatter bridge” could be as low as $6,000, not counting labor and delivery. Many of the other items in the action report appear to require low-cost repairs, e.g. adding sand or mulch to the area. Did MPS solicit bids for repairing the playground? Is there a bid low enough that MPS would consider repairing the playground?
  • Is there a summary of anonymous complaints about the playgrounds, or a total number of them over a certain period of time?


  • What were the costs of the five most recent playgrounds that MPS replaced? MPS has suggested that the average cost of replacing a playground is $350,000, but are there more specific benchmarks it can point to? For example, what did MPS pay for Dowling’s playground? Or Emerson’s?
  • Members of the community have called playground manufacturers and received quotes for building a small, new playground for as low as $75,000. Would MPS be willing to replace the Cooper playground with something more modest than a full-scale playground found at other parks? Is there any replacement bid that would be low enough for MPS to consider replacing the playground out of its budget?

Partnering for Solutions

  • Has MPS contacted any other organization or government agency to partner with them in addressing this issue? If so, what is the status of those conversations? If not, why not?
  • Is MPS willing to sell the land to a public interest organization or government entity that could continue to use it for a public purpose? If so, on what conditions? Would MPS consider selling it for a nominal amount if it were to be used for a public benefit, for example as a park?
  • Is MPS willing to rent the land to a public interest organization or government entity that could continue to use it for a public purpose? If so, on what conditions? Would MPS consider renting it for a nominal amount if it were to be used for a public benefit, for example as a park?
  • If community members are interested in facilitating a transaction between MPS and another organization or government entity, how would they go about doing that? What sort of documentation or proposal would MPS require? Would MPS collaborate on those efforts, or would it only play a passive role?
  • Could community members simply repair or replace the playground on their own? If not, why not? If so, under what conditions?
  • What does the partnership between the Minneapolis Parks Department and MPS look like at other sites where there is a shared responsibility, such as Mathews Park? Has MPS worked to advocate for MPRB to take over Cooper?
  • If the community fundraises for a new playground, would MPS consider continuing the annual maintenance as they have done so for the past 25 years? What are the continuing maintenance costs for such playgrounds (insurance, graffiti removal, sand/mulch replenishment, etc)?

Status of MPS’s Decision Making Process

  • How long will MPS “pause” the decision to remove the playground? Will it give community members notice before the “pause” is lifted? How much notice?
  • How much of MPS’s decision is driven by liability concerns? Would renting to a third party alleviate those liability concerns? Or is the only viable route, from a legal exposure perspective, to sell the land?
  • Does MPS plan to ever sell Cooper and, if so, to what sort of entities and on what conditions? Will it, e.g., be commercially developed or will it retain a public function?
  • Does MPS contract with outside companies for inspections and maintenance of playgrounds?

District Wide Plans

  • How many other park amenities might MPS remove around the city? I.e., how many other unused properties currently have playgrounds or other amenities that might be removed by MPS?
  • Has MPS engaged in similar community conversations when it has removed other playgrounds? What was the result of those conversations?
  • If MPS closes schools in the future, will it leave any playgrounds that are at those schools or will it remove them?
  • Does MPS have a strategic plan for what it will do with similar, unused MPS sites in the future? If so, does MPS take into consideration equity concerns and access to park amenities when it decides to remove a playground structure?

At tonight’s meeting we expect several Minneapolis leaders to be in attendance, either in ‘official’ capacities or just as concerned residents. It will be a good opportunity to get express concerns and see what kind of materials there are to build momentum in preserving school playgrounds not just in Cooper but citywide.

See you there!