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PTO hosts playground fund-raiser

By Jennifer Sawyer

Staff Intern

The Parent-Teacher Organization of Memorial School in Wilbraham desires to improve the current condition of the school playground, implementing a swingset and a new activity structure. The old structure will be torn down and replaced with a larger playscape that will be handicapped accessible.

The current playground at Memorial school is over 20 years old. According the school's Playground Committee, a division of the PTO, the existing playground contains rusted equipment and is too small to accommodate large groups of students during recess times. Children are often forced to wait in lines to use some of the equipment, and there is also a small area that is broken and boarded up with plywood, posing a safety concern.

In addition, there are no ground-level activities on the current playground for disabled students. The PTO sought funding from the School Committee and the town, but their quest went unfulfilled due to a variety of budget constraints.

According to Nancy Douglass, member of the playground committee, the Memorial School Playground is one of the last playgrounds in the Wilbraham area to undergo modernization. The playgrounds at Stony Hill School, Mile Tree School, and Soule Road School are all relatively new.

The PTO has met with representatives from a number of playground companies. Along with the counsel of playground experts, the PTO has designed a playground area that will provide the children with various activities and exercise opportunities, while remaining handicapped accessible. The new design also allows for possible future expansion.

Sharon Dufour, the incoming vice president of the PTO for the 2006-2007 school year, said that the new structure would serve as a healthy change, especially with more and more children becoming overweight.

"It's imperative to encourage children at a young age to be active and provide them with a new structure that will encourage exercise," she said.

The new playground will be able to hold 32 children at once. The structure features four slides, various sets of climbing bars and hanging structures, and a new "rock climbing wall." The new playground will have a six-swing swingset and ground-level activities for disabled students, coinciding with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regulations.

The Playground Committee has sent out numerous letters to local businesses asking for support. The school is currently hosting a "pennies for the playground" drive in which students are invited to donate their spare change.

The Committee also recently hosted a spaghetti dinner, and is looking forward to an "All American Picnic" fund-raising event that will take place at the school on June 14th.

"The community has greeted us with open arms. I think part of the problem was that, because Memorial School was built over 50 years ago, we were often out of sight and out of mind," explained Debbie Ritter, current vice president of the PTO. "But now that they know about us, we're not going to stop!"

According to Ritter, blueprints of the new playground were displayed at the spaghetti dinner and were met with great anticipation among the school children

"The kids are excited. The new playground will be much larger and have more activities than the old one," said Douglass.

The PTO's goal is to raise enough money so that the students can begin to enjoy the school playground during the 2006-2007 school year. They aim to have the playground installed in October. The committee is thankful for already achieving more than half of their proposed goal, but said the group still has work to do.

Individuals who would like to donate to the fund may do so by writing a check to "HWRSD," with a note that the donation is for the Memorial School Playgrounds. The mailing address is Memorial School, 310 Main Street, Wilbraham, MA, 01095.

Douglass looks forward to the new playground soon becoming a reality.

"If we could get everyone in the community to give just a little bit, we would be able to meet our goal."