Community volunteers spend spring break building new playground
While some students and teachers started off their spring break by traveling to an exotic place, the Endhaven Elementary School community came together to build the school’s new and safer playground.
In late 2014, Bissell, Inc. awarded Endhaven, located at 6815 Endhaven Lane, $25,000 to update the school’s worn-down playground equipment.
Bissell reached out to elementary schools in the 28277 zip code for requests and a committee of tenants in Ballantyne Corporate Park selected Endhaven.
Endhaven Elementary Principal Brian Slattery told South Charlotte Weekly in December the grant had “perfect timing,” as students suffered broken arms from the dated equipment.
“The school is 11 years old and the playground is 11 years old,” said Jacquie Slack, PTA president and one of the lead volunteers of the playground build. “We have two playgrounds – an upper playground and lower playground – and the lower playground especially had just really aged and the height restrictions were different, had changed and we were having falls happen.”
The school’s PTA created a five-year plan to raise money to purchase new equipment and reduced a two-year plan to one year.
In the past few years, the PTA focused mostly on technology in the school to create a 3-to-1 ratio of students to technology devices, such as iPads and Chrome books, Slack said.
“As we got closer to that, we really, last year, made a turn figuring out what our needs were for the grounds,” she said. “As every school ages, it’s the responsibility of that school and fundraising to really upkeep of the grounds and that’s what we’re doing.”
On April 3 and 4, about 30 volunteers of teachers, parents, students and former students worked with Cunningham Recreation to complete the project. The crewmembers guided volunteers in the construction and helped build some of the pieces.
Area restaurants, such as Jersey Mike’s, Hungry Howie’s and Earth Fare, also supported the build by donating refreshments.
Slack, who has a fifth- and third-grader at Endhaven, said she’s been overwhelmed by the support from the community and believes the new equipment will strengthen its position in the growing Ballantyne community.
“Endhaven is very much a community school. We pride ourselves on that and we pride ourselves on teamwork,” she said. “Just having the access of the Community House Bridge coming across is just going to bring more traffic flow around Endhaven. Knowing that we have a field area, a new playground, accessibility to basketball courts, families do come here and use this on the weekend.”
Slack said this was an opportunity for parents and community members to come support the school in a hands-on experience, rather than simply donating funds.
“(We’re) seeing so many people that wouldn’t cross paths come together and working together (and it) just really means a lot,” she said.
Former students, many who now attend Ardrey Kell High School, said their memories at Endhaven motivated them to come support the build.
Ardrey Kell 11th-grader Hannah Huckaby said she was among the first fifth-graders to attend Endhaven.
“We use to play on that playground and it only seems fitting to fix it back up,” she said while volunteering on April 3.
Carissa Livan Ding, a 12th-grader at Ardrey Kell, is studying in the U.S. from Malaysia through the Kennedy-Lugar Foreign Exchange Program. She found out about the opportunity through school announcement and wanted to help.
“I said to myself. ‘I’m here for six months, I might as well leave something behind,’” she said.
Slack feels it’s important to provide a safe environment where children can also delve into their creativity.
“A lot of playgrounds 10, 15, 20 years ago led the kids on obstacles that they should do and new playground structures these days allow them to use their creativity and think through how to use different play and team play and individual play (that’s) all incorporated into one playground,” Slack said.
Bissell said the company and its Ballantyne Corporate Park supporters are proud to see the grant come to life for the community.
“On behalf of our tenants in Ballantyne Corporate Park, we are excited that Endhaven’s new playground is complete. It’s gratifying to have created a safer, more vibrant setting for the students and local children alike to enjoy,” Howard Bissell, senior vice president and director of Bissell, Inc., said.
Slack said the school’s next physical phase is working on the school’s fields, which will include a soccer field this summer. The school received a $5,000 grant from Harris Teeter and a portion of those proceeds will go toward the field and building a track around the field.
Slack said it’s important for the PTA and community to support the schools that often struggle finding funds to accommodate its needs.
“I think for schools it’s really hard. There’s always so much need and balancing what are the needs,” Slack said. “We’ve finally gotten to a place where our inside needs are manageable and as we make our outside needs manageable, we’ll start to streamline things – inside and outside.”