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After 38 years as an educator, Kevin Regan retired in June as principal of the Norman E. Day School. But his affiliation with the school did not end there. Regan is spearheading a fundraising campaign to build a new playground for the school. Structural issues that raised concerns for the safety of the students prompted officials to remove the old equipment this spring. Regan and his team plan to raise about $160,000 with requests for funds from the Community Preservation Committee, the Capital Planning Committee, and from selling bricks with donors’ names. WestfordCAT News Director Joyce Pellino Crane asked Regan a few questions recently:
- Why does the Day School need a new playground?
In June, 2017 the previous outdoor play structure was dismantled due to structural problems and potential safety concerns for children. This leaves the Norman E. Day School as the only elementary school in Westford without a play structure for children to enjoy at outdoor recess, during the after-school program, as well as general use throughout the week.
- What type of equipment are you hoping to construct and where will it go?
It is the aim of current school Principal Chris Sardella to install a playground with multiple swings, slides, zip lines and climbing apparatus. The playground will be 100 percent handicap accessible for mobility purposes, as well as permitting all children to have similar sensations while engaged in play. The ground surface will include manufactured wood chips to enhance and support safe play. The play structure will be placed in a location behind the school gymnasium that is approved by town authorities.
- What do the students do now when they have recess?
Students currently make use of the open field where they play touch football, soccer and tag games. There are also three tetherball poles which are also used. Children make use of the geodesic dome that they call the spiderdome or superdome for climbing purposes. A basketball court has five hoops where students play games and activities such as Knockout. Activities such as four square and hopscotch are popular with students. Students also play Wallball and also participate in the W.O.W. (Walking Outdoors for Wellness) when offered. Less structured activities such as talking, walking, drawing, reading and board games also occur.
- Why does a playground matter at an elementary school?
In today’s world, much of what children do is directed by adults. Developmentally children need learning opportunities to socialize and engage physically with other youth that they determine without an adult directed approach. During these times children learn and practice how to stay safe, determine choice of activity, take turns, agree upon rules of activity, resolve conflict, interact with children not in their class, adhere to school Code of Conduct, generate creative thought and most importantly have fun.
- How much do you need to raise?
The vision of the Day Playground Development Team is to identify and raise $160,000. Perhaps slightly more than this amount if we encounter any unanticipated expenses.
- Why are playgrounds so expensive?
Since the equipment children play upon must be sturdy, safe and durable, it is fabricated to meet these guidelines, and thus expensive. The ground surface and installation of the structure are other costly components.
- Where will the money come from (capital funds, CPC, bricks, grants)?
It is our hope the revenue we generate will come from the town of Westford Capital Planning Committee, Community Preservation Committee (Community Preservation Act funds), school-based fundraisers such as Buy-a-Brick and monthly restaurant dine-in/take-out events, as well as grants.
- Who’s on your team and what are their roles?
We refer to our group as the Day Playground Development Team. We have Day and Miller School parents and staff, school administrators, parents of former Day School students and Westford community members. Their roles are to discuss how to generate funds for the playground, plan events to fundraise and identify revenue sources. This cadre of talented individuals is highly motivated to raise the necessary funds so the playground can become a reality.
9) What companies are under consideration?
Current Principal Chris Sardella is coordinating the design and installation of the playground. This responsibility is different than the fundraising aspect, yet both are important.
- Who will build the playground?
Discussion is ongoing with a few companies. It is possible the company we purchase equipment from and who installs the apparatus will come from the state pre-approved bid list. It is also possible that the company that we purchase the equipment is selected through the bidding process.
11) Are you selling bricks?
The Buy-a-Brick fundraiser will be initiated in December 2017. Individuals and businesses will be able to purchase 4-inch-by-8-inch or 8-inch-by-8-inch bricks to recognize, honor or memorize others. We are currently designing a brochure that advertises this opportunity. An option will exist to order these customized bricks online or on paper. It is our aim to kick-off this wonderful activity to support the “Help Day Play” initiative at the Westford Academy Holiday Bazaar in early December. We are also considering a bulk mailing so many people can participate in this opportunity.
- When are you kicking off your campaign?
Currently we are planning monthly dine-in/take-out restaurant fundraisers. Other opportunities exist through the Westford Florist, Yankee Candle, and at the Launch Trampoline Park in Nashua, New Hampshire. A raffle will be conducted in December 2017 offering many chances to win gift certificates and other prizes.
- What’s your goal for having the playground built?
Our vision is to install the playground no later than September 2018.
- What do you want residents to know?
The new Day School playground is a community resource. A play structure is a basic need and not a luxury at an elementary school. It is intended to support the physical, social and emotional needs of all children fortunate to utilize it. You can support this effort by volunteering on our community, participating in one or more of the fundraisers, or making a general donation, with checks payable to: Day PTO and sent to: Norman E. Day School, 75 East Prescott Street, Westford, MA 01886, as well as communicating to your neighbors, friends or relatives, so others are aware of the respective activities.