Funding drive collects $300K for Hadley Elementary School playground makeover

The playground area at Hadley Elementary School, seen last week, is expected to be replaced this summer with new equipment.

The playground area at Hadley Elementary School, seen last week, is expected to be replaced this summer with new equipment. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

The playground area at Hadley Elementary School, pictured last week, is expected to be replaced this summer with a new playground.  The Friends of Hadley Preschool, the Hadley PTO and school officials raised  more than $300,000 for the new structures.

The playground area at Hadley Elementary School, pictured last week, is expected to be replaced this summer with a new playground. The Friends of Hadley Preschool, the Hadley PTO and school officials raised more than $300,000 for the new structures. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

The playground area at Hadley Elementary School, pictured last week, is expected to be replaced this summer with a new playground.  The Friends of Hadley Preschool, the Hadley PTO and school officials raised  more than $300,000 for the new structures.

The playground area at Hadley Elementary School, pictured last week, is expected to be replaced this summer with a new playground. The Friends of Hadley Preschool, the Hadley PTO and school officials raised more than $300,000 for the new structures. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

The playground area at Hadley Elementary School, pictured last week, is expected to be replaced this summer with a new playground.  The Friends of Hadley Preschool, the Hadley PTO and school officials raised  more than $300,000 for the new structures.

The playground area at Hadley Elementary School, pictured last week, is expected to be replaced this summer with a new playground. The Friends of Hadley Preschool, the Hadley PTO and school officials raised more than $300,000 for the new structures. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

The playground area at Hadley Elementary School, pictured last week, is expected to be replaced this summer with a new playground.  The Friends of Hadley Preschool, the Hadley PTO and school officials raised  more than $300,000 for the new structures.

The playground area at Hadley Elementary School, pictured last week, is expected to be replaced this summer with a new playground. The Friends of Hadley Preschool, the Hadley PTO and school officials raised more than $300,000 for the new structures. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 07-05-2024 7:39 PM

HADLEY — With plastic pieces breaking off the slides and rust creating instability in the main bolts holding together some play structures on the Hadley Elementary School playground, a portion of the play space has been roped off, keeping children safe from potential dangers, but preventing them from having an inclusive, fun and accessible experience.

Some of the equipment, installed more than 20 years ago, poses hazards for kids, elementary student James Kinchla observes.

“The playground is rusty, crusty and musty. The slides have cracks in them and the tube slide is wiggly,” James said.

“Hadley needs a new playground because more people will go on it because it will be safer,” he said.

When the more than 300 children from Hadley and 11 area communities sending choice students to town return to school in the fall, or possibly a little later into the new school year, a new playground will be ready. The Friends of Hadley Preschool, the Hadley PTO and school officials, including School Committee member Tara Brugger, have been engaged in a fundraising campaign bringing in more than $300,000.

Already, the various pieces that will go into two separate playground areas have been ordered, with delivery expected in about two months.

A Playground Committee informed the playground design, to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, and will include two new structures, one for students in grades 1-6 and one for preschool and kindergarten classes. A swing set will also be added.

Brugger told her colleagues on the School Committee last week that the playground will be bright, cheery and inviting. Brugger said the “big kid” portion has low-level and high-level play areas, an oscillating chair that spins and platforms larger to make access easier, along with a hammock swing and table under the structure and two fully accessible spinners. Inclusivity and accessibility add-ons are also possible.

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The “little kid” portion has a standing spinner and two musical items, a drum and another apparatus that will produce sounds, as well as table and play panels under the structure, a spring rider, stepping stones and play panels that will be placed for all to access.

An opening ceremony will be planned when the playground is ready, Brugger said, to recognize donors, including larger ones like Steve Lewis Subaru, Peoples Bank, Greenfield and Northampton Cooperative Bank, as well as the Meyer family and local nonprofit Friends of Hadley Preschool. The district also received donations from the Hadley Parent Teacher Organization.

“Our school community is immensely grateful to have raised funds for our new playground, as it will provide a safe and engaging space for our children to play, learn and grow together,” Principal Jennifer Dowd said in a statement.

During the campaign, Abby Stern, a member of the Hadley PTO, sent out appeals.

“We are committed to replacing these hazardous structures with modern, safe, and accessible equipment that will enrich the lives of all our students and the community at large,” Stern wrote. “This new playground will not only ensure their physical safety but also enhance their social interactions and overall well-being.”

School Committee Chairwoman Humera Fasihuddin said it’s exciting to hear that play structures have been ordered and applauded the extensive work that went into the campaign, which began in March.

School Committee member Christine Pipczynski, too, said Brugger and others did a phenomenal and amazing job and showed dedication to the students.

“It’s great. The kids are going to love it,” Pipczynski said.