Playground reconstruction underway

As the 2011–12 school year began, 85 percent of the outdated Cranberry Pines Elementary School playground was uprooted and thrown away, which left the kindergarten through fifth-grade students with just a few sets of equipment for activities, according to parent Nancy Hutchinson.

On Friday, March 30, the principal, Lucas Coesfeld, who spearheaded the project, and parent volunteers, broke ground on the new playground upgrades, as the first of three phases of the project.

“It’s exciting,” Hutchinson said.

The school was waiting for funds to come through in order to begin the refurbishing effort.

The night of the groundbreaking, volunteers worked until 6:30 p.m. prepping the grounds. The Sunday after, April 1, some 20 volunteers from Shawnee High School’s National Honor Society and approximately 30 parents assisted, Hutchinson said.

The ga-ga ball pits were installed, the playground was cleaned, the mulch was spread and the sand was reallocated.

“They really did a beautiful job,” she said.

When the children arrived on their school busses on the following Monday, Hutchinson said her daughter relayed that the response was “unbelievable” from her classmates.

“The kids were just thrilled with the work that was done,” she said. “It’s been hugely successful. They’re feeling good about going to school and seeing the new playground.”

The next tentative date for improvements is April 20.

That day, Hutchinson said, soccer nets and volleyball courts will be installed, and asphalt games, such as four-square, will be painted.

A week or two later, “the bigger equipment is going to come in,” she said, and will be installed by the manufacturer.

“That’s about where we are at this point,” Hutchinson said.

She explained that the project is a parent-based effort right now, and community help is key for continued efforts.

There are five to six sub-committees working for the playground, she said, with each involving three to 10 parents.

“We keep asking for general assistance,” she said, from mulch to time to whatever the community can contribute.

The positive effects of the improvements are already visible, she said. From just the one weekend of work, the reaction has been “huge.”

Over spring break, some parents brought their excited children to the school to play.

“It’s community based,” she said. “It’s community driven.”

The playground was originally torn down as a safety measure.

“Some of the pieces had been there since the school had opened,” she said.

It was one of the only Medford schools that did not have an updated playground.

“My husband (Ed) went to school there,” she said. “Our daughter was playing on some of the same equipment as he was playing on. It was time” for the revamp.”

In the past, no one had really looked into an upgrade, she said.

“There were times that it had come up, but then we ran into budget cuts, a tight economy and unfortunately, other issues.”

She said Coesfeld then decided, “Let’s just do this.”

“He really branched out and started the effort,” she said. “The community responded to his enthusiasm. Every parent, in some way, has done something.”

As a parent of a second-grader, Hutchinson, who believes this project is good for the children both now and in the future, said, “The kids are just thrilled.”

When money allows, there are more parts to the playground the parent volunteers would like to consider enhancing in the future, she said.

To help with the project or to donate funds, contact Cranberry Pines Elementary School at (856) 983–2861.