Belgrade Central School Playground Enhancements
By Eric Brooks and Gwen Bacon
The Belgrade Parent Teacher Organization (BCS PTO) has been fundraising to make improvements to the school playground. In the past, BCS has had two separate playground areas with some structures that are over 40 years old and at the end of their useable life. Through this project, the playgrounds were merged into one area for students in grades kindergarten to five like many other elementary schools. Several of the enhancements have not only increased opportunities for play but have improved safety for students.
Overhanging branches were trimmed and problem trees were removed. New paving has created a basketball court with three adjustable hoops and will provide better exit paths from the gym in the event of an emergency. New swings, a ten spinner, surfacing, and more will be installed to increase accessibility for students with disabilities. Previously, there wasn’t much equipment that students with disabilities could use, and what was available was difficult to access because of its location on the playground. ADA certified wood chips have also been added under the equipment to provide better footing and protect students if they should fall.
Recess is not just a break from school; it provides recreational and social opportunities to help students build lifetime exercise habits as well as relationship and problem-solving skills. “As an elementary school, we value play and creativity,” Brooks said. “Our staff is very good about letting students have their recess and knowing they need the fresh air and outdoor time as much as they need their academics.”
The PTO exceeded the initial goal of $50,000 raising over $57,000 through different fundraising events and contributions from local businesses. In addition to financial donations, local businesses also contributed in-kind donations, such as groundwork and rubbish removal. “We were lucky to have the support of our local community in making this goal a reality for our students,” said Principal Gwen Bacon who has been instrumental in coordinating this project alongside the Parent Teacher Organization. Fundraisers included a restaurant night at Texas Roadhouse, hat days, pie in the face, pizza lunch raffle, and more.
In addition to the playground enhancements, the school received a Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grant which will provide funding for a new outdoor literacy garden. New benches, a gazebo, and pavers will be added to make a space for students to read, write, and work on various projects. Staff and students will also be completing a school-wide reading of “Only One You” by Linda Kranz, which will tie into the school theme of Be Responsible, Communicate Respectfully, and Spread Kindness. Students will then paint a small rock to be incorporated into the new garden area.