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Upgrade needed: Hancock PTO starts Let’s Swing It campaign for playground improvements

Hancock PTO starts Let’s Swing It campaign for playground improvements

(Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette) Hancock PTO’s Let’s Swing It fundraiser for a playground expansion includes envelopes with a donation amount ranging from $1-200. The envelope for $180 was already selected when this photograph was taken Wednesday afternoon.

HANCOCK — The Hancock School District Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) has initiated a campaign fundraiser with a goal of expanding the playground at the Barkell Elementary School, on Elevation Street.

Chelsea Schelly, PTO president, said the campaign’s name is “Let’s Swing It” playground fundraiser, with the intention of raising $20,100 by the end of the current school year.

“We have a wall of envelopes,” said Schelly. “What we would like to do is have all of these envelopes taken down by the end of the school year, and filled.”

The envelopes are arranged in numerical order, with the numbers representing dollar amounts. The envelopes are numbered one through 200. The envelope with the desired donation amount is then taken and returned.

One of the PTO moms, who does not wish to be identified, was inspired to think about the playground and updating the equipment, Schelly said.

(Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette) Students of the Barkell Elementary School created drawings depicting their visions for the ideal school playground.

“The playground equipment is safe,” she said, “but it is not particularly age diverse, so there are not things for all kids to play with.”

Nor is it particularly activity-diverse, she added, there are not lots of different things that kids can be engaged in, and the existing equipment is not particularly adopted for Copper Country snow depths.

“That leaves a big part of the year that the playground doesn’t get much use,” said Schelly.

The PTO mom, as she asked to be called, had seen playgrounds in other areas that were constructed by a particular company, and she learned the name of company that manufactures much of the equipment she saw.

The company, Missouri-based Little Tikes Commercial, also does playground designs, and Schelly said when the company was contacted, they provided some ideas on different ways Barkell’s playground could be expanded and adapted to a wider range of activities for different age groups, and also, things that would be useable year round.

“The idea with the idea with those envelopes is you could have a single envelope for, say, four dollars, or you could go in with a group of people for an envelope for $150, or more, and it doesn’t have to be one person, one envelope. You could go at it as one person or a group, so somebody could take it to work and do a group of people as a fundraiser, or somebody might have an extended family, who remember going to school here, or being part of the school system.”

The PTO mom said that the things on the playground work, but her vision for it is to see it expanded so that it is more fun more kids of more age ranges for more of the year.

The play area is divided into to playgrounds, the upper-level grades are assigned the one atop the hill behind the school, but currently it is unaccessible through the winter, because there is no snow removal equipment to keep the stairs to the top cleared.

“So, what happens is, the upper elementary kids have the basketball hoops and maybe the one climbing station thing,” said Schelly’s friend, “and that’s it.”

Schelly said Little Tikes is already reviewing how to adapt the existing equipment to accommodate the hill, snow depths, and to adapt them for children with varying abilities, as well.

The company discussed the flow of the playground, and locations of swings, and similar topics.

“…different places for our swings, and different things I really never thought of,” said Schelly’s friend, “and I feel like they put so much into this already, as far as what to change, or what to adapt.”

The PTO mom said if all of the envelopes are filled, it will raise $20,100. The for the entire playground redesign, she said, the estimated cost would approximate $150,000.

“The nice thing about working with a company like this, that does this on a commercial basis,” said Schelly, “is that they are thinking of the entire playground, and the flow of that playground, but they’re also willing to things in stages. They’re willing to engage community builds, where people could come in to build equipment and reduce that higher cost.”

A community build, she explained is an opportunity where community members could come in and build and construct equipment, and Little Tikes engineers will oversee the project. That will spare the PTO of the expense of having to have someone come to build a piece of equipment.

The PTO mom said that the $150,000, and the entire redesign, including equipment, is the Master Plan.

While there is currently no deadline for the for the end of the Master Plan, the goal of the Let’s Swing It fundraiser campaign is the end of the current school year, Schelly said.

“That’s this first-year goal,” she said. “Then the PTO is exploring kind of grants and matching opportunities, and those ways, then looking at how we could stage this out over a multiple of years.”

Dan Vaara, Barkell principal, and Superintendent Steve Patchin are also thinking about ways the PTO could build the funds to complete the program more quickly, said Schelly.

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