Putting it together: Volunteers assemble playground

HANCOCK – The students of Hancock’s Barkell Elementary School will have a new way to wear themselves out thanks to the efforts of parents, teachers and community members. The Barkell Parent Teacher Organization hosted a community build project to install a brand-new playground Saturday, something students and teachers alike are excited for.

“It is a much needed piece. The old playground was very sad – just a little slide and a platform – and nobody really played on it. It was so old,” said Amanda Andress, kindergarten teacher at Barkell Elementary.

Starting with a $15,000 grant from KaBOOM! and the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, the PTO dedicated this school year to fundraising for the new playground equipment. Throughout the year they hosted many different fundraisers, including multiple Kaleva Days, catalogue sales and ladies’ nights at the school, where different vendors came in to sell items. The total cost of the playground was about $45,000, said PTO President Tara Packard.

“Throughout the year we’ve been fundraising to get a new playground put in and we finally are here,” she said.

Although the PTO takes on a different project every year, the new playground has been a big undertaking.

“This is a big project for the PTO. They’ll take on a project every year to boost the school in some way and they’ve been doing a lot of technology in the last couple years and then this year they said ‘let’s do a new playground.'” Andress said. “This is a huge project but it’s going to be great.”

The new playground will have much more to offer than the old structure, which Packard said was about 25 years old and left something to be desired in terms of entertainment value.

“It was about time to put in some new interactive play for the kids,” Packard said. “It’s going to be huge compared to the other one. The other on really had no play value – it was just a teeny little slide and a platform. We’ll be putting up a big climbing net with this one, there will be bigger slides and monkey bars and overhead components.”

Both students and teachers are excited about the prospect of new playground equipment. Although students may just want a cooler slide, for teachers a new playground may result in better behavior, both in the classroom and outside.

“I think it will be great once the kids can come out here and wear themselves out and then come back and listen and learn,” said Andress. “They come out here and they’re bored and then that leads to behavior problems out here and behavior problems inside. So if they can come out here and run around and have a good time, then they can come in ready to learn.”

The equipment needs at least three days to set before it can be played upon.

This week, Barkell Elementary will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the new playground.