PTA helps revive elementary playground

$55,000 raised in Shipley's Choice for new equipment

April 09, 1999|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Something wasn't right when pupils returned to Shipley's Choice Elementary School in August.

The books were there, the cafeteria was there, and the teachers were definitely there. But the playground was missing.

During an annual inspection last summer, school officials determined that the 9-year-old play equipment no longer met safety standards, and they tore down the old slides, climbing bridges and firefighter's pole, right down to the sandlot.

Michael Walsh, a county school system spokesman, said playgrounds must meet federal and industry safety standards. Guidelines prohibit wood, swings or moving parts.

FOR THE RECORD - A caption with a photo of a boy climbing on playground bars at Shipley's Choice Elementary School, which appeared on Page 8B of Friday's Anne Arundel County edition of The Sun, misidentified the boy. He is Riley Larcher. The Sun regrets the error.

He said the school system hasn't paid for playgrounds for 20 years and that PTAs generally cover the costs.

Parents of the 435 pupils at Shipley's Choice responded with a community fund-raising campaign to build a new playground. Six months and $55,000 later, the Severna Park school has a bigger, better play area, filled with gleaming tubular equipment in yellow, blue and red.

Yesterday, Shipley's Choice celebrated the effort with a school-wide assembly to thank everyone involved in the rebuilding project.

"We went from nothing to a playground in six months' time," said Brock Strom, a leader of the "playground committee" whose wife, Maren Strom, is the PTA president.

"It really speaks to the caring the community has for the kids and the school," he said.

After school officials removed the unsafe wood and metal equipment, kids were reduced to balls, pails and shovels provided by the PTA for recess. The older kids played ball on the blacktop areas, and the younger children used beach toys to amuse themselves in the old sandy playground area.

"It took a lot of imagination," said PTA secretary Susan Dyckamn. "They made the most of it, but they really wanted a playground."

The PTA quickly decided to raise money to build a playground. Some committee members went door-to-door, eventually contacting 800 of 1,100 homes in Shipley's Choice. Other members sought larger donations from the local businesses.

Once the money was collected, Strom said, the group held a "competition" for the playground design.

"We said, `Here's the site, here's the amount of money, make it fun for our kids,' " he said.

County workers dug out the old playground sand, and committee members replaced the sand with softer, safer wood chips.

Eastern Waterproofing and Restoration of Jessup, whose president, Greg Gray, has a daughter at Shipley's Choice, installed the playground equipment without charge, and the play area opened March 31.

The playground features innovative equipment such as the "talk across," which allows children to talk through megaphones attached to a climbing apparatus.

"Would you like some pizza pie?" 3-year-old Alec Miller asked his buddy.

"I think it's really neat," said Suzannah Gratz, 6, who visited the new playground after school yesterday. "It has a lot of things that our old playground didn't have."

"We didn't have those twirly things over there," Suzannah said, pointing to a piece of climbing equipment with a tower of yellow spirals. "That takes up all my recess time."

Once six benches arrive -- to give tired parents a place to sit -- the playground project will be complete.

Yesterday, Mark Bello, a Shipley's Choice parent who was instrumental in rebuilding the playground, watched children slide, jump and climb on the equipment.

"To see the kids get on it is what really makes it," he said.

Pub Date: 4/09/99

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