More than 200 students in kindergarten through second grade piled on and around their elementary school’s new playground equipment Wednesday morning to take a surprise photograph of themselves with a giant signed thank-you banner for Times Oil, the company who funded one-third of the project.
The previous wooden playground lacked durability.
“It wasn’t as sturdy as when it was first installed,” Iron Station Elementary Principal Audrey Benton said.
Benton added that the playground, just for grades kindergarten through second — since the school likes to separate the younger children from older students — is located behind school property in an area where a new wing was constructed last year. Because of the school’s new addition, she said, part of the old playground had to be demolished.
Times Oil granted the Title I school $5,000 for the new equipment, PTA President Mark Bartholemew said. The entire project cost $15,000 and was additionally funded through PTA fundraisers — including last October’s Walk-A-Thon, which drew in $7,000.
Money also stemmed from funds already saved in the PTA account, Mark said.
In order to save an additional $4,000 for labor, parents put together the new metal and plastic playground set themselves.
Mark’s wife and PTA Vice President Ginger Bartholomew noted how it took nearly two months to piece together the equipment, even working up until the final hour to meet the group’s goal — have it ready for students on the first day of school.
“Mark was finishing (it) up at 8 p.m. the night before school started,” she said.
Students from all grades were ecstatic to see the new play area and immediately flocked to it the first day.
“They were standing in line — kids waiting to get on the playground,” Ginger said.
The PTA, which consists of four officers and five committee chairs, learned about the particular Times Oil grant through a parent at the school, and the process moved quickly, applying for the money in April, receiving the check in May, ordering the parts through Creative PlayScapes, LLC, in June and receiving the equipment in July, Ginger said.
The PTA’s next project, a more costly one, will be replacing the school’s front, upper-grade-level playground, also wooden.
While PTA members would like to install the new equipment for students before the end of the school year, Ginger anticipated the $25,000 initiative would take closer to two years.
Teachers also expressed positive opinions of the new play area.
“It’s awesome,” Teacher Assistant Melissa Hovis said. “We needed something like this. It gives (students) more activity on the playground.”
For 2nd-grader Amber Sanchez, 7, the slide is the most enjoyable aspect of the new playground equipment.
“You slide a lot, and the sun hits you,” she said. “I like it when the sun hits you.”
Six-year-old student Zack Harwell, a 1st-grader, seemed equally excited.
“It has really cool stuff to play on,” he said.
Iron Station Elementary School will host another Walk-A-Thon fundraiser for the front playground 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Oct. 18.
Individuals may also donate to the project by calling Mark Bartholomew at (980) 241-9215.