GREAT FALLS — Whittier Elementary School hosted a ribbon cutting for its new playground on Wednesday, October 26, 2022.
Great Falls Public Schools received $200,000 from the city’s Community Development Block Grant for a new inclusive playground at Whittier Elementary School.
The playground project was eligible for CDBG funds under the "public facility and improvements" category. GFPS contributed $30,000 to the playground project.
The project included removing existing dilapidated play structures, replacing pea gravel with a safe and accessible surface material creating a zero transition from asphalt to play surface, and the purchase and installation of new inclusive play equipment.
"Whittier is blessed," said Principal Corri Smith. "Not only Whittier students and staff, but also our community. We've had a lot of community use from our playground as well. What we've had happen here at Whittier to achieve this playground was to have the district, GFPS come together with the city of Great Falls to join forces, join funding, and this is what we had.
Smith said partly due to safety concerns, the need for a new playground was increasingly growing. "The playground before was great, but it was a little unsafe sometimes in the winters because of the ice on it, but we are nothing but blessed. Winters we had to close it down, so our kids were not able to play on something."
Just like any project, there are some challenges that come with a big project such as this.
Smith said, "With trying to get things shipped, moved, that was a little hard, but the administration really worked hard on that. I attribute a lot of it to Ruth Uecker who really went out to the city, to one of their planning meetings, and said 'this is what we have, can we work together,' and then when she left GFPS, Lance Boyd picked up the baton, and this is what we have."
When speaking with the students, they said they couldn't be any more excited to get out and play on some equipment.
"I think it’s really interesting," said student Willow Cicon. "I really like playing on the slides and being able to play and hang out with my friends. I also like it because my brother is six years old, he recently had a birthday, and now he is going to be able to enjoy this for the next six years of his life.”
Fellow student Michael Hoskinson said, "I’m most excited for how much fun you can have on the playgrounds. How you can run around, you can basically do your own thing on the playground ... Safe things.”
School playgrounds are typically open to the public when school is not in session, so families are encouraged to use it during daylight hours.
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