It took 15 months and many, many hours of work, but the children at Park Elementary School in Great Bend are now enjoying brand new playground equipment.
Second grade teacher Deena Smith said school employees, parents – including the Booster Club – and students raised $40,000, and the district helped with some labor. They sold tumblers, suckers, trash bags and Red Wheel food items. They sought donations and grants.
Smith said she had never written a grant application, but she learned how and eventually received five grants, including one for $5,000 from Midwest Energy and a minigrant from the USD 428 Education Foundation.
Months after month, the school board approved donations as they came in. At last Tuesday’s meeting, Assistant Superintendent Khris Thexton said the money had been raised and the equipment was in place.
“It’s a great addition to Park,” Thexton said. “They’re very proud of it. Deena did a great job.”
Park Principal Phil Heeke also credited his teacher for coordinating the fundraising, while acknowledging the group effort. “Mrs. Smith did an amazing job,” he said. “They works really hard on it.”
As students played on the five stations of the playground Wednesday afternoon, Smith explained that the project began in November of 2014.
“We just had the old monkey bars,” she said, adding a couple of students suffered broken arms that year after falling from the old equipment. “I felt like we needed to get playground equipment that would accommodate all age levels.”
The equipment stretches across the playground from west to east, on a raised bed of soft, compacted mulch. At the west end there’s a Gyro-pod Spinner and at the east end there’s a triple slide. In between there are obstacles and rings for climbing or monkey-style swinging, adjusted for different heights.
“We’re rearranging our who playground,” Smith said. The old swings and a rock climbing wall that used to take up part of the space will be moved to other spots on the playground.