Most educators can tell you stories about long waits for budget approvals and typically the bigger the commitment the longer the wait. Big purchases, like a playground, tend to spend more time in committee than the average supply order. The city of Jena in Louisiana recently moved their elementary school into a brand new building and, for the most part, students love their new school. However, aside from a few pieces of equipment that were considered worthwhile to move along with the school, the children's recreational needs were set aside; taking a back seat to the more pressing issues that go hand in hand with any move. The students at Jena Elementary had finally had enough waiting.
The school's initial request for a playground was denied; the school board wanted the school to raise money on it's own before they would agree to commit any funding. The staff at Jena Elementary was already working with BYO design experts and their description of their students and their passionate drive to provide their students the best experience reached the heart of Glen McCutcheon, playground specialist with BYO Recreation. â€œI suggested they have their students participate in a letter writing campaign and tie the writing to their curriculum as well.â€ Glen explained, and in exchange BYO provided the equipment at a discount to replace the funding the school was unable to raise itself.
The students, some as young as 5, wrote dozens of letters, many simply stating the facts. â€œWe want to go outside. We want to play.â€ Older students wrote more specific letters extolling the virtues of exercise and the inadequacies of the current recess facility.
â€œWe need playground equipment so we can get our bodies moving because all we have is dirt.â€ -Troy
â€œI want a playground because all we have is rocks.â€ - Jazi
The playground had been designed, the plans approved by school staff and the budget finalized all they needed was the final approval from the school board. The gears of bureaucracy were turning, in their favor but too slowly for their liking. Tired of being asked about the status of the playground, teachers decided to pass on their students requests. Dozens of letters made their way to the school board, along with hand drawn pictures of swings and slides.
â€œWe need some playground equipment for our new school. We would love to play outside at recess.â€ - Audrey
The decision on whether or not Jena Elementary will receive its new playground will be reached this summer and most anticipate that their request, accompanied by dozens of carefully written letters, will be approved.
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"Everything was just wonderful! We would absolutely recommend BYO to others. Our playground is gorgeous."