One year ago, Boothbay Region Elementary School students from pre-kindergartene through second grade were greeted to a new playground when doors opened for the school year. This year, students from third grade and up will receive the same great news, a new playground.
Assistant Principal Tricia Campbell said all who were involved with the first phase of the project last year would have never dreamed a second phase would open to students and the public one year later.
“While were were extremely excited the youngest members of our school family had something to access, it was a disappointment when our oldest students were like, 'What about us?' … Folks were like, 'What’s next?'”
Interest in replacing the aging playground started around 15 years ago with the BRES Parent Teacher Organization. Campbell said the PTO determined it was really just the funding holding up the process and as efforts to gain traction became overwhelming, the PTO reached out to the Board of Trustees, who, along with former Superintendent Eileen King, tasked Campbell with looking into the matter. One of the expectations they set for Campbell was making sure the playgrounds would accommodate all students.
“Last year for phase one, we were blessed to have the Rotary get on board. They worked hard, they wrote grants, they helped with funding. Then the Trustees within their budget were able to identify funds through the school that we could utilize. With the work of volunteers, the PTO, and the Rotary, we were able to put this up and it was ready at the beginning of September in this past school year.”
Campbell said the second and final phase started as a blank slate and she did not expect anything to go up for at least a few years. She submitted several grant applications and continued looking for funds. In December, Campbell was notified the project had secured a $25,000 grant.
“Having that sum of money come in really motivated me to say that this is possible, that this was a dream for 15 years and ... doesn't have to take that long.”
When she had $31,000 in grants, she updated the PTO. After deciding on the third and most expensive set of structures, the PTO awarded the project $3,500.
Once Campbell revealed the structure plans, the trustees approved and helped with the final piece of the puzzle, ground cover. Campbell said since the addition of wood chips for the playground is on a rotation per safety laws and this year happened to be a year for it, the trustees agreed to cover those costs. The ground cover ended up being no more than the board would have budgeted, said Campbell.
“The board of Trustees has been amazing. They’ve got so much on their plate right now with all of the work on the buildings, but they have been behind the playground project 100%, to the point where they're here on their own time looking at the grounds and giving feedback.”
The trustees examined the old playground structures and determined they are still safe, so there are no plans to remove them, said Campbell. If and when it becomes necessary, removal poses no risk to the new equipment, she said.
The past two years of work have been extremely rewarding, said Campbell. She is still pleasantly surprised it did not take longer. “What I'm most proud of is the fact that we have done this in a year. This community values our school system and the importance of having play. It just blows my mind. I'm so proud how many people got involved, how many people came together to make this happen. The Rotary, the Trustees, the volunteers, teachers, staff – it's overwhelming.”