Summer brings playground upgrades to school

Photos by Daniel Vasta/The Herald
Volunteers Noah Owens, 12, left, Colton Obermeier, 12, and Cristina Prusz, all of Holland, help make improvements to the playground at Holland Elementary School on Tuesday.

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

HOLLAND — The Holland Elementary School playground will look different when students return to school this fall.

The Holland Elementary PTO and school staff are working over the summer to solve drainage issues on the 20-year-old playground, add some equipment and re-mulch the area. The project kicked off Tuesday and brought out teams of volunteers to the school to help clear old mulch and rock.

School staff, students, the Southridge middle and high school football teams and community members all picked up shovels and rakes Tuesday to lend a hand.

“I was really amazed today at the volunteer turn out,” said Principal John Seger.

The upgrade is expected to cost around $30,000, and the PTO has spent the last three years fundraising for the project through the school’s annual walk-a-thon. They also received grants from the Dubois County Community Foundation and the Holland Events Committee.

Brian Blackgrove, director of maintenance and facilities for the Southwest Dubois County School Corporation, was instrumental in planning the project and getting ahold of the heavy equipment needed to move the old mulch and rock. Blesch Brothers and OFS/Styline loaned the school the equipment needed to move the old mulch off the playground.

Seger and PTO President Jennifer O’Brien said they’re extremely grateful to everyone who came to help.

The project grew out of efforts connected to the Upgrade grant Holland Elementary received from the Welborn Baptist Foundation. The grant awards elementary and middle schools $15,000 a year for three years for health initiatives in the schools and the communities they serve. As part of the grant requirements, schools also must set up a Wellness Committee to oversee the initiatives. At Holland, the committee and PTO decided to team up to make improvements to the school’s playground.

Holland Elementary Principal John Seger of Huntingburg, left, Ryan Flamion of Holland and Southwest Dubois County School Corporation Facilities Director Brian Blackgrove of Huntingburg take down the funnel ball pole while volunteering their time to help make improvements to the playground at Holland Elementary School on Tuesday.

The group knew the area had drainage issues, O’Brien said, because every time it rains, water flows to the southwest corner of the playground, taking mulch with it. There was also a grassy area by the building that was often so muddy it was unusable.

Turning that area into a place the kids could play became the first phase in the upgrades and the school used $17,000 from the Upgrade grant and PTO fundraising to pave the area with rubber. That work wrapped up shortly before school let out, so students still had a few weeks to play on the new space.

“The kids were so excited to have that (space) back,” said Erin Meyer, a member of the Wellness Committee.

The playground work that kicked off Tuesday is Phase 2 of the upgrades. It will include fixing the drainage issues, a new big piece of playground equipment, new playground borders and new mulch. If there’s money left, the plan is to add some sensory panels.

Although choosing the new playground equipment is proving more fun, the main priority right now is fixing the drainage.

“We knew we had to fix that first before we could add equipment,” Meyer said.

The plan is to have drainage fixed and the new equipment in place by the beginning of the 2019-20 school year. Meyer figures the PTO will have several more volunteer work days at the end of the summer to spread the new mulch.

The third phase of the project is a couple years down the road, O’Brien said, but eventually the PTO wants to add a walking trail around the playground where students can walk or do fitness stations.

The PTO is still looking for donations to make the walking trail a reality. Anyone interested in donating can contact the school at 812-683-3971.




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