By Parker Butler
It has been nearly two months since Waddell Elementary reopened, and students are enjoying the school’s state-of-the-art technology and advanced facilities.
However, the new school is still missing a key element for its 340 students: a new playground.
Representatives from the PTA’s playground committee presented a proposal for a new playground to the city’s school board and the superintendent during the school board’s meeting Nov. 14.
The proposal includes playing fields, a picnic pavilion, a walking trail, landscaping and park benches, as well as a play structure designed for students’ development needs.
If the current proposal is finalized, the project could cost up to $120,000. The PTA hopes to pay for the playground through grants, private donors, and help from the city.
Keri-Lyn Coleman, the mother of three Waddell students, is the grant writer for the PTA’s playground committee. Coleman said the committee already has several opportunities for funding and it is planning to do a better job in directly reaching out to donors.
“This is an ambitious and expensive project,” said Coleman. “We are really counting on a collaboration with lots of community partners to successfully implement this project.”
Coleman has written several grants. Two are to the Washington and Lee University Community Grants program and the Everybody Walk! Program, which would help fund the walking trail. Coleman said she has identified Stonewall Jackson Community Health Foundation as an option to fund the playground equipment.
She is also looking at the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation and a non-profit organization called KaBOOM! as possible sources.
“We can’t actually purchase any playground equipment until we have the purchase price, which is most likely around $80,000,” Coleman said.
Coleman estimates it will take at least a year to accumulate enough money to begin constructing a new playground for Waddell.
According to Coleman, the city’s school board does not have enough money in its annual budget to pay for the playground. She and the rest of the playground committee plan to present the city council with a proposal in the near future in hopes that the city will contribute to the project.
PTA President Summer Sullivan said in an email that although the PTA usually supplements the school’s budget for projects that it finds will enhance a Waddell student’s educational experience, the PTA has never spearheaded a project of this magnitude before.
However, Sullivan said the current PTA board members are willing to put in the extra work for what they feel is a worthwhile goal.
“It is the PTA’s view that outdoor play is essential to the health and well-being of children,” Sullivan said. “Studies prove that outdoor education and playtime help students become high-performance learners.”
According to studies done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should have 60 minutes of physical activity a day to ensure improvement in their physical health, social skills and cognitive development.
“By engaging in a very different activity from their classroom experience, the recreation theory of play states that children can recharge via outdoor play in order to return to the very important work of academic learning,” Sullivan said.
Waddell students currently spend their recess time at Woods Creek Park, located next to the school.
It’s not clear why renovation plans for the school building did not include a new playground.
“I would imagine it was a cost savings decision,” said Lexington City Schools Superintendent Scott Jefferies, who was not involved in the city’s school system at the time when the plans for the new Waddell were made.
Jefferies said he is thankful for the PTA’s efforts.
“The Waddell PTA has done a great job reaching out to vendors to get estimates and plans,” Jefferies said.
Waddell Principal Tim Martino said he could not be more impressed with the dedication shown by the PTA members in approaching the playground project.
“A lot of times, people talk about these things, but when it comes time to do all the work, they aren’t as eager,” Martino said. “But our PTA has really gotten down to it and they are meeting with all kinds of people to get this playground up and running.”
According to Sullivan, the PTA and its playground committee are meeting with three potential contractors, and the committee is hopes to finalize several key decisions soon.
“We have continued to review and modify plans to the point where we feel we have a solid, working park and playground proposal that will benefit the students of Waddell and the entire Lexington Community,” Sullivan said.