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Effort underway to replace damaged playground equipment

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

Vandals took playground equipment away from Eastwood Elementary School students last year. A teacher is now looking for ways to make sure all the Eagles can enjoy recess.

Last summer, someone tore apart playground equipment at the elementary school on New Castle’s east side.

“We as a staff and student body at Eastwood strive to demonstrate showing respect to others,” said Eastwood principal Jacob White. “Unfortunately, others outside our school don’t share our sentiment at times.”

White and his teachers try to emphasize to students it is important to take care of what they have and to be responsible.

“It is quite upsetting when individuals demonstrate poor judgement through vandalism towards our playground,” White said.

School playground equipment isn’t just an excuse to get out of class. It is also designed to help with physical fitness, White explained.

Eastwood preschool teacher Shannan Dougherty said her students currently have just an enclosed play area, two swings and one adaptive swing.

Dougherty used the crowdfunding site DonorsChoose.org to raise money to help get several riding toys for the kids, including scooters and early childhood recreational items that help develop gross motor skills.

White said the free play items can be used in both indoor and outdoor settings.

White appreciates the generosity of the New Castle community and donors who helped give the Eastwood students these items.

“(It) provides an example of hope and support for our students,” White said. “We want to teach perseverance in all phases of life, and community encouragement let’s our staff and students know they are our partners in all we do.”

Dougherty hopes the community can eventually help Eastwood Elementary School get new playground equipment for all their students.

“Equipment is so expensive, so it’s kind of frightening even thinking where to start with all of this,” Dougherty said. “It would be nice to have something that is wheelchair accessible, but to do that we would be into several thousand dollars.”

For example, one system with two slides and different climbing levels costs around $7,000.

Dougherty also wants a wheelchair-accessible swing since Eastwood currently has three students who use a wheelchair.

The school also needs new mulch on the playground, Dougherty said.

A local company is willing to transport and install the mulch for free, but it would still cost the school about $500 to buy the material.

Any community members, groups or businesses that would like to help Eastwood provide new playground equipment for their children can contact the front office at 765-521-7205.

“We are grateful for the partnerships with organizations in our community,” White said. “Their continued support is what keeps us motivated and encouraged.”

Besides helping with Dougherty’s initial fundraising campaign, community volunteers also work with Eastwood students after school through programs such as DIVE or Homework Club.

White also credits the success of the Eagle Pantry to the school’s set-up and facilitation group.

“Our students and staff are grateful for our volunteers, but will continue to seek those who offer time, resources, or notes of support,” White said.