“We explored our options and decided it was time to replace our current playground with one that still has a lot of charm, but has updated equipment and features that meet our students’ needs,” said Davis.
The current 25-year-old wooden structure, a fairy tale-themed children’s dreamscape, is in remarkable shape for its age, but is not without its problems. Some of the more major issues began last fall, but since it was hand-built by the community, tearing it down has been put off as long as possible.
“Every year there’s an inspection,” said Davis. “Last fall, it was decided that the monkey bars over a wooden walkway be taken out. The tires that make up the dragon’s body were removed… it was painful for the children to see pieces keep being taken away. It has come to the point where [the playground] looks much different than it did even five years ago- it loses one piece at a time, and the younger kids have nothing to do besides run around.”
To address the problem of the rapidly-shrinking playground, a shared decision-making team was created. Consisting of three parents, three teachers and a representative sampling from the school community, the team met to explore the possible options for the replacement of the playground and the task of finding a builder the community could get behind.
Fundraising chair and shared decision-making team member Julie Getty spearheaded the playground vendor selection process.
“Julie went through and researched all the playgrounds she could find,” said Davis. “One of the ones we liked ended up being built by our current playground’s original builders, Leathers & Associates. They can make a very similar structure that the community designs, with improvements.”
Leathers & Associates is a unique company with a community-built philosophy. Guiding the school from start to finish, Leathers & Associates oversees the technical aspects of the design, safety, accessibility and the construction of the playground, while utilizing community manpower and volunteers for the bulk of its funding and assembly.
“There are so many other working parts of this that will fall on the community’s shoulders,” said fundraising chair Julie Getty. “Not only the students, parents and teachers are concerned with this issue- people who use the playground, the Greenfield community, are passionate about it.”
The school is hoping to use this passion to rally the community behind their cause and take their $150,000 budget and turn it into a $400,000 playground. The community-based build will help Greenfield obtain a playground not otherwise possible without its support. The school is counting on local businesses’ donations and a volunteer workforce to make the new playground a reality.
“Corporate sponsorship is how this is going to be built,” said Getty. “We have a projected build date of spring of next year. [We] have to build on the momentum, the excitement of this.”
On June 6, a birthday celebration and design day kick-off party will give local kids an opportunity to provide insight into how the playground should look and ignite some of that needed community excitement.
“Children in the community will have the chance to feel as if they’re inspiring the initial design,” said Davis. “[They’re] going to draw pictures of what they see as the very best playground and design it all together.”
At the end of the day’s festivities, a first-draft schematic incorporating some of the prominent themes from the children’s drawings will be revealed.
In the meantime, Greenfield Elementary is asking for any interested community members to get involved.
“Students, teachers, parents and community members all contribute to the planning, designing and building,” said Davis. “This is a big task and we need your help.”
The school is in the process of establishing a playground committee and needs volunteers to help with everything from providing food and child care during the build to securing funds and materials.
If you are interested in being on the committee or would just like more information, visit the new playground’s website at www.greenfieldplayground.com or attend the first playground committee meeting April 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the school.