KDHE funds playground project at $48,674

? Work could begin this week, principal says.

The days are numbered: HES north playground on an average dry day. Free Press file photo
The days are numbered: HES north playground on an average dry day. Free Press file photo

Hillsboro Elementary School received word Thurs?day that the Kansas Depart?ment of Health and Environ?ment will be funding a grant of $48,674 for the school?s playground project.

It was the second largest grant issued from a total of $403,000 KDHE distributed statewide.

Principal Evan Yoder said the confirmation of KDHE funding will mean that work to upgrade or replace the two playgrounds at the school will begin either this Friday or the following Monday.

Barring unforeseen delays, Yoder said the project should be completed in time for the start of the next school year.

?This (KDHE) grant was the thing that was kind of the final straw,? Yoder said. ?If we could get that, then we could do both playgrounds.?

A group of HES parents launched the first fundraising effort with a spaghetti dinner Feb. 14, 2014, that raised about $1,500. Fifteen months later, the fund has grown to around $170,000.

Over the same period, Yoder said the cost of the project has increased from an initial estimate of $150,000 to the current goal of $215,000.

Yoder said the board of education has indicated it will cover the $45,000 gap with capital-outlay funds, enabling the entire project to move forward.

Project goals

The goal for the playground at the west end of the building?used by preschool, kindergarten and first-grade students?is to replace the pea gravel playing surface with a shredded rubber that bonds together to form a safer environment, Yoder said.

The playground on the north side of building, used by the older grades, will be a total reconstruction. Instead of the rutted, mostly dirt surface that is unusable following most rains, the new playground will have a rubberized poured-in-place surface with several new pieces of play equipment.

Contacted Friday morning after a significant rainfall the previous night, Yoder joked that after seeing the north playground, ?If I had some channel cat, I?d toss them out there. There?s a pond out there right now.?

On a serious note, he added, ?I wouldn?t want to take a family out there and show them our playground. It?s embarrassing.

?Now, we will have an impressive playground,? he said. ?It will enthrall some kids, and whether it will bring a new family here, I doubt it. But if we can get kids enthused about school and make recess a fun time to go out and play in a safe environment, that just enhances the whole educational experience.

Yoder had special praise for the parent group led by Erin Beavers.

?We had a great group of parents to make this happen,? he said. ?Of course, there?s been a lot of help? from the school district, now this grant, from the community foundation, and a lot of fundraisers they?ve done, from the food things to the garage sale.?