Harrison Park PTO plans playground improvements

| Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Parent volunteers with the Harrison Park PTO are making a big push to raise money to expand the elementary school's playground and add a second one.

In a three-phase $87,000 plan, the group's playground committee is working to increase the size of the existing playground, repaint and fix the current equipment, and install new equipment, with some work done before each of the next three school years.

With the committee just $1,500 short of its $22,000 goal for the first phase of work, the PTO is sponsoring a vendor fundraiser at the Level Green Community Building on Tuesday. The bulk of the money in phase one will pay for the extension of the blacktop area so the children have more room to play outside when the ground is wet.

Much of the fundraising to date has happened through bake sales and dining-for-a-cause deals at local restaurants, as well as some funding from the PTO's general account, said Robin Sir Louis, the playground committee chairwoman. One specialty event, in which children tossed pies at teachers' faces, raised about $1,300.

“We have a long ways to go to fund the whole project, but I think, so far, the effort that has gone in has been fabulous,” said Sir Louis, whose son is in second grade. “I think everybody's been on board with this project.”

Though the first big improvement — the installation of a plastic rock wall and “rocket spinner” — is scheduled for early May, the blacktop expansion is the centerpiece for this year.

During wet or snowy days, classes go through a rotation to be able to go outside on the blacktop for recess, Principal Jeff Swartz said.

“We try to get the kids out as much as we can because especially during the winter, there is not a lot of daylight to get outside in the evenings,” he said.

Because of the snowy winter, Sir Louis said, her son was able to go outside only once in a two-month period last winter.

In the second phase of the upgrade, the parents plan to raise $20,000 to install a new surface for a second playground; build a sidewalk to the new playground; and install a few benches and freestanding equipment for the playground.

A new play structure, estimated to cost $45,000, is slated for the final phase.

“I'm very happy to be involved in this,” Sir Louis said. “I'm excited. I can't wait to see the kids' faces when they see the equipment.”

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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