Es­sex El­e­men­tary rais­ing funds for new play­ground

The Avenue News - - FRONT PAGE - By: GIANNA DECARLO gde­carlo@ches­pub.com

For many school­child­ren, the best part of their day is re­cess.

But for the stu­dents of Es­sex El­e­men­tary School who have had to deal with an ag­ing play­ground and fall­ing apart equip­ment, re­cess is just not as fun as it could be.

The school will be cel­e­brat­ing its 100th an­niver­sary in 2018 and as a way to honor this mile­stone, the Es­sex El­e­men­tary PTA kicked off mas­sive fundrais­ing ef­forts in

or­der to build a new play­ground.

“We thought, ‘what a great way to cel­e­brate that we’ve been part of this com­mu­nity for 100 years.’ But it is no small un­der­tak­ing, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing how much play­grounds cost,” said Amy Schafer, the PTA vice pres­i­dent.

The play­ground cur­rently at the school is 25 years old, erected in 1995 at the same time the school was moved on to Mace Ave. from its orig­i­nal lo­ca­tion on East­ern Blvd. It’s feel­ing its age, Schafer said, adding that a lot of the equip­ment is rusted and no longer up to code and is in var­i­ous states of dis­re­pair.

“It’s so im­por­tant, be­ing able to go to a play­ground and just and play with your friends with­out hav­ing to wait in lines be­cause there’s not enough equip­ment.”

The PTA has been dis­cussing the new lay­out and de­sign of the play­ground with their gym teacher. The new equip­ment, such a mon­key bars and new swing sets, will be geared to­wards grow­ing fine motor skills and build­ing up­per body strength.

Es­sex El­e­men­tary also has what they called “in­clu­sion stu­dents” which are stu­dents from all over county that have special needs that only Es­sex and it’s spe­cial­ized class­rooms can tend to. So, the big­gest change with the new play­ground is that it will much more hand­i­cap-ac­ces­si­ble, giv­ing ev­ery child the op­por­tu­nity to play.

In the next few months, mem­bers of the PTA will be sit­ting down with Bal­ti­more County con­trac­tors to nail down what fea­tures to put in.

Schafer calls the fundrais­ing a “col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort” since it started in 2016, say­ing that they have re­ceived sup­port from all over Es­sex.

“Es­sex El­e­men­tary is one of the old­est schools in the area. Most of our fam­i­lies and kids live within a one­mile ra­dius of the school and they know it’s a huge part of our com­mu­nity so we reached out to any­one we can that can help us,” she said.

And many lo­cal busi­nesses have stepped for­ward. One of the first fundrais­ing ef­forts was a “penny war” where stu­dents were ex­pected to bring in pen­nies and other change and the class who brought in the most money won a pizza party pro­vided by Pizza John’s. Schafer laughs as she re­calls one stu­dent brought in $300 in pen­nies.

Ben­gies Drive-In Theatre also is get­ting in on the ac­tion. On Thurs­day, October 19, they will host a triple-fea­ture of Hal­loween-themed chil­dren’s movies for $20 per car and then do­nate all the pro­ceeds from that night back to the PTA’s play- ground fund.

Even with­out re­moval and resur­fac­ing costs, the pro­ject will cost close to $45,000 so Schafer is hop­ing the movie screen­ing is a suc­cess.

If the play­ground is suc­cess­fully in­stalled by 2018, the school will cel­e­brate with a com­mu­nity party and grand un­veil­ing, com­plete with a rib­bon cut­ting.

“We’ve been work­ing re­ally hard on this. It’s about mak­ing it a bet­ter place for our chil­dren. This play­ground will be around for years and even if our kids don’t get to play with it, we know we’re leav­ing this be­hind for pos­ter­ity.”

Any busi­nesses or res­i­dents in­ter­ested in help­ing out with the fundraiser can e-mail ees100years@gmail.com. Those in­ter­ested in Ben­gies tick­ets can also reach out to that ad­dress.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF THE HER­ITAGE SO­CI­ETY OF ES­SEX & MID­DLE RIVER

The first Es­sex El­e­men­tary School build­ing.

PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF THE HER­ITAGE SO­CI­ETY OF ES­SEX & MID­DLE RIVER

The Es­sex El­e­men­tary Class of 1928.

Stu­dent An­gela McDowel in front of Es­sex El­e­men­tary dur­ing her first day of school in 1953.

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