Washougal — Gause Elementary preschoolers no longer have to share a playground with older children thanks to a district project that benefited from a donation of bark chips by Washougal’s Metro Landscaping. Washougal School District grounds workers Rod Heller and Jack Walker also lent a hand in creating the new outdoor recreation area for the young kids, which is fenced off and includes small play structures donated by parents. A bed of bark chips next to the preschool classroom area covers what had been grass and dirt, which wasn’t entirely suitable for play because it would sometimes become a muddy mess when the weather got wet. Because much of preschool is about socializing and play, teachers are referring to the outdoor area as an “extended classroom.” District Early Learning Technician Lisa Young said the district had initially budgeted about $4,000 for the project. But thanks to the nearly $1,000 saved after Metro Landscaping’s contribution and other cost savings, the total ended up being about $2,000. “It was a wonderful surprise,” Young said about the company’s gift.