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Hyde Park playground opens

| Friday, Sept. 7, 2007

Now that Allegheny-Hyde Park Elementary School has a long-awaited playground, parents are hoping to obtain similar structures for other Kiski Area schools.

"It's been a long-time dream for the entire community," said Christina Kovitch, of Allegheny Township, a past president of the elementary school's parent-teacher association.

Kovitch watched Thursday evening as her son, Kyle, checked out the new blue-and-yellow steel structure that resembles a kid-sized obstacle course with various climbing and swinging options.

The school sponsored an ice cream social on Thursday for parents, staff and students that served as both a back-to-school event and a playground dedication.

After cutting the ribbon and releasing dozens of balloons, screaming children streamed into the fenced-off playground beside the elementary school.

Kovitch said the PTA worked for years to raise money for a playground at the Allegheny Township school on School Road behind the municipal building.

The organization had raised about $5,500 when Kristen Bell, a member who worked at UPMC St. Margaret hospital, and a few other mothers approached the hospital's charitable foundation for a grant.

Matthew Hughes, executive director of the St. Margaret Foundation, said the PTA originally requested $17,000, but the foundation's board decided that wasn't enough to provide an adequate playground.

So it doubled the request and gave the group $34,000 in February.

"It happens very rarely that you get more than you ask for," Hughes said Thursday.

"The mission of the foundation is to improve the health and wellness in the areas and communities served by UPMC St. Margaret," Hughes said of hospital near Aspinwall. The board decided Kiski Area's request easily filled that mission.

"They really didn't have a playground to play on," Hughes said. "We decided we could have an effect."

Allegheny-Hyde Park Principal Brian Kutchak said the playground will not only be fun for students, but will help promote a healthy lifestyle.

"It's an area designed to help the kids get physically fit," he said.

Kovitch said the playground is even more special because it was dedicated in honor of Stephanie Nicholas, a former Kiski Area student who died of cancer earlier this year.

Nicholas' parents, former Kiski Area High School principal Tony Nicholas and former Allegheny-Hyde Park teacher Shelley Nicholas, participated in the ribbon cutting.

Kovitch said the playground came to fruition a little too late to benefit her son, who now is in seventh grade. But she's hopeful more playgrounds will be built at other schools.

"That's my goal," she said.

Kovitch said the parents were thankful to administrators and school board members who supported the project.

"It was a team effort," she said. "The board accepted it with open arms."

"We've been waiting a long time for this," said Jodi Fowler, of Allegheny Township.

Her daughter, second-grader Grace, anxiously awaited her turn on a popular feature of the playground, an elliptical piece that allows kids to be spun.

"She was out here earlier today," Jodi Fowler said. "She's having the best day."

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