By DON COGGER Star Staff Writer
Recess can be one of the most important tools for elementary-age students for emotional and intellectual development, as well as a means of exercise.
That said, recess is a lot more fun when there’s playground equipment to play on, as the students of Garfield Elementary in Miles City can attest. To that end, students and faculty of the school have been holding a series of fundraising efforts in an attempt to raise money for new equipment.
“We’re trying to update our playground equipment for a couple of reasons,” said Garfield Principal Laurie Huffman. “First, so more kids can fit on the equipment, and second, to make the equipment handicap accessible. Right now with the current equipment we have, we can fit eight kids on the swings, 10 kids on the monkey bars and 10 on the train and fire engine, so 30, maybe 40 if they all cram on. The new equipment we’re looking at would fit 80-90 kids on the main piece of equipment alone, and it’s handicap accessible. We’ve also looked at teeter-totters and merry-go-rounds. If we could get all of that, we could fit easily over 100 kids on the equipment at the same time.”
The school so far has raised $22,000 toward the project, which when completed is estimated to have a price tag of $76,000. Students have held bake sales, as well as selling “Spirit Cups” out in the community. The project would likely be built in phases over several years, with the largest piece of equipment built first.
“My goal is to try to get this done over the next couple of years, so that the kids that have actually raised the money get to reap some of the benefits of it,” Huffman said.
“We’ve also benefitted from some grants from businesses like Murdoch’s. Next year, we probably won’t do the spirit cups, so we’re not sure yet what kind of fundraising we will do. We’re applying for some more grants through different businesses as well.
“We’re always looking for more funds, and when it comes time to assemble the equipment, we’re looking for community volunteers to help with that.”
Huffman said Garfield currently has the highest student population with the smallest playground in the district. In the mornings before classes, all 250 kids are outside playing.
“It’s probably more of a benefit for K-4 than the older kids,” she said. “But we still have a large group of kids that would love to have something to climb on without having to wait.”
First-grader Darrien Perkins said the current equipment has become quite dated, and there’s not enough to go around.
“Playgrounds should be fun,” he said. “The more stuff we have on the playground, the more fun we’ll have.”
Third-grader Kya Gilmore agreed.
“The stuff we have is a little small,” she said. “We’ve been having bake sales and selling spirit cups, so hopefully that will help. We’re working real hard to raise money.”
Fourth-grader Johnny Richards said both big kids and little kids need more fun things to do outside, and with the current equipment, it’s not easy.
“The stuff we have now has gotten a little old and boring,” he explained.
Second-grader Bailey Hardy said if the school had more equipment, the students would have more fun and have better experiences.
“We’re trying and trying, and we won’t give up,” she said.
Businesses and members of the community who would like to donate to the project can send donations to the Garfield Playground Fund at the Miles City School District central office at 1604 Main St.
“Anyone who has end-of-the-year funds they want to find a good use for, we would definitely appreciate it,” Huffman said. “And the equipment could benefit the community as well. On this side of town there are really no parks. I would like to make it so it’s a place where neighborhood families could go and play, so they don’t have to got to Riverside Park or Wibaux Park if they didn’t want to.”