(Note: This is the last of seven installments of what’s “New for NJSD in 2014-15.” Each Wednesday during July and August, a feature was posted with something new to look for during the upcoming school year.)
It was a long time coming, but students and families at Wilson Elementary finally have a new playground for the 2014-15 school year.
The Wilson Parent Teacher Organization spent over 10 years discussing and exploring the project before finally completing it this past summer. A grand opening ceremony is set for Wed., Aug. 27 at 4 p.m. (Update: The grand opening has been changed to Thurs., Sept. 18 at 6 p.m.)
“It was amazing to be part of something where everyone’s dream becomes a reality,” said Wilson PTO President Amy Gunderson, who is in her fourth year with the organization. “The playground is all I’ve heard about since the moment I walked into the building.”
The previous playground had a pea gravel surface, which was a slip hazard and ended up lodged in kids’ clothing and shoes. This summer, a new artificial turf surface was installed and by doing all of their own labor and a little additional fundraising, the PTO was even able to purchase three new pieces of equipment.
The entire cost of the project was about $30,000, which was well under the $80,000 quote the PTO received about seven years ago when it first explored the project. Those costs included a complete installation, but with the help of District Director of Facilities/Engineer Andrew Thorson, the group found a more reasonably priced turf surface. They also recruited numerous people to volunteer time during the summer to assist with the project.
In all, over 40 people made contributions, ranging from those who did the actual installation to those who brought meals to the volunteers. The workers included Wilson staff members and volunteers from Neenah Rotary. For those involved, the project became far more than just installing a new playground.
“I worked with people I had never spoken to before and lots of relationships were built,” Gunderson said. “It was great for the Wilson community.”
Much of the money was raised through a Chip Shoppe fundraiser over the past two years where all of the proceeds went towards the playground project. The fundraising exceeded expectations and allowed the group to purchase a sierra climber, whirligig and spinami. However, to the dismay of the Wilson students, there’s still work to be done. Grass is being planted and fences are still up until it officially opens in time for school.
“The kids are so excited,” Gunderson said. “You can see they are just itching to get out and play on it.”