PTA leaders seek $30,000 for Longfellow playgrounds

April 27, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Sun Staff Writer

To Longfellow Elementary School PTA leaders, the 23-year-old, bare-bones school playground not only represents a disappointment for children, but also a shortcoming in their educations.

"My two children went to a private preschool, and when they came here, I was appalled," said Jackie Rose, co-chairwoman of the PTA's Playground Committee fund-raising effort.

"It's part of the school day. That's what bothers me," she said. "Kids come out here and burn off energy. Then you don't have turmoil when you go back in the classroom. It's part of a quality education, and this isn't it."

The Playground Committee has launched an effort to raise $30,000 to provide two new playgrounds for Longfellow Elementary students. The group's goal is to raise $15,000 by June 1 so that it can purchase and install new pieces of equipment in each playground by fall.

On April 19, the Harper's Choice village board voted to contribute $2,500 toward the project, and it plans to vote on a proposal to award another $2,500 once the newly elected board takes office in May. The PTA group has requested $15,000 over two fiscal years from the village board, $10,000 of which the group would match.

The county Department of Education's policy is to remove deteriorating and unsafe playground equipment, but not to pay for replacement equipment, said Patti Caplan, a department spokeswoman.

The department also works with PTAs to ensure that new equipment meets safety standards, checks installation and maintains playgrounds, she said.

The county school board decided that it would not finance new ZTC playgrounds at existing schools because other instructional needs and programs had higher priority in the competition for dollars.

"To add something means to take away from something else," said Dana Hanna, school board chairman, adding that community groups have been successful in raising money for projects. "There's no bottomless pit, no endless supply of money."

Ms. Rose and Rebecca Johnson, the fund-raising group's co-chairwomen, said the Longfellow Elementary playground for younger children doesn't come close to accommodating the 80 to 100 students who might use it at any one time during recess. The playground for older children consists mainly of two basketball hoops.

Ms. Johnson said new playgrounds would benefit the whole community, not only the school, noting that the Longfellow neighborhood pool and other recreation areas nearby attract parents and children during off-school hours.

Heather D'Amore, Harper's Choice village board co-chairwoman, said she thinks contributing to the project, even though it is on school property, is an appropriate use of the village's money.

The village association's income comes from the Columbia Association's annual charge on property owners and revenue generated through village programs and the rental of facilities.

Columbia Association assessment payers would benefit because the nonprofit organization runs a before- and after-school care program at Longfellow Elementary, Ms. D'Amore said.

The village board also has wrestled with the amount of the request, which is among the largest the board has considered, she said.

"We'd get a lot of mileage for our money with that kind of donation," Ms. D'Amore said. "I think the board would like to help as much as we possibly can without cutting off the good programs we already do."

The village association included a question on its election ballot Saturday asking residents whether they supported contributing to the project, and at what level.

Village Manager Wendy Tzuker said yesterday that the results had not been tabulated.

Ms. D'Amore noted that the village board previously has contributed $6,000 to an after-school tutoring program at Harper's Choice Middle School, $3,600 for a summer activities program for low-income middle schoolers, and lesser amounts for other school, police department and community programs.

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