By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — From afar, the playground at Sargent School appears to be just fine.
It boasts the usual swings, slides and other features on which the youngest students love to burn their considerable energy.
Upon closer examination, one discovers that the structures are made of aging wood, which has inflicted many a splinter on unsuspecting children.
Principal Edward Foster, teachers and parents decided last school year this had to change. So they raised $28,000 and plan to erect the first phase of the new playground Oct. 18 and 19.
The Playground Committee, which includes Foster, along with several parents and teachers, has developed a three-year plan.
The playground renovation is expected to be completed in October 2015. Plans call for: (1) replacing both wood play-structures with new, lower maintenance structures made out of metal, (2) installing additional stand-alone play structures, (3) creating more accessible, inclusive play options, and (4) expanding the hot top area.
Thanks to a generous gift from the 2012 fifth grade class, the committee will include a new two-seat swing bay.
Students with limited mobility have difficulty using the playground and the current hot top is not large enough for the more than 500 students at the school, according to Playground Committee members.
The new structures will be more up to date with current playground safety standards. They will challenge the children both mentally and physically, helping them develop upper body strength, stability, problem solving, and overall confidence, according to Lisa Roberts, a Playground Committee member. Moreover, the slimmer profile design will offer more activities in the same footprint with lower overall maintenance costs.
Each phase will be funded by a combination of grants, direct donations, traditional fundraising efforts, and company sponsorships and donations. Peter Breen, a local landscaping contractor, will supervise the demolition of one of the structures this week, according to Foster.
To maximize the dollars spent on play structure equipment and minimize labor costs, each phase will be installed via a community building effort, where volunteers from the community work together to build the structures. Not only does this decrease cost, but it also provides an opportunity for the community to come together to benefit the children, Roberts said.
For more information, contact Karen Davis at 617-256-4684 or Karen.firstname.lastname@example.org.