Jre Playground Gets A Pick-Me-Up

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With the purchase of $10,000 worth of new playground equipment, the facelift of the Julia Randall Elementary School grounds has begun.

But it's amazing how little playground equipment you can buy for $10,000.

"We're getting two towers, a slide, a tube, a gorilla bar, a balancing beam, a chin-up bar and the play safe material that goes underneath it," said Mary McMullen, vice president of the newly revitalized JRE Parent-Teacher Organization. Some of the money was also spent on mulch ground cover to replace the sand that's currently there.

That leaves the school needing another $16,000 for the remainder of the playground equipment, plus an estimated $200,000 for an artificial turf athletic field. The current baseball field is dirt and choked with weeds.

"Right now, when the kids come home from school there's dirt in their eyes, dirt in their ears," McMullen said.

While a natural grass field would be much cheaper, the water situation in Payson makes artificial turf the preferred way to go.

The need for both playground equipment and an athletic field at JRE is acute.

Some of the equipment is as old as the school.

"We know for a fact that all the playground equipment, with the exception of the pre-school area, has been there longer than most people who are currently grandparents," said McMullen. "They say, 'Oh yeah, we played on that.'"

Paint is flaking off some of the equipment, but McMullen said Joe Martin, director of support operations for PUSD, assured her that it is not lead-based. The really old equipment never was painted and is in various stages of rusting out.

A slide that is still in use is broken and a piece of metal is protruding dangerously.

"It's just not what we want our child to be playing on," said McMullen.

The first $10,000, raised last year, came from enchilada and cookie dough fund-raisers and a book sale.

"You name it, we pretty much nickel and dimed everybody to death last year," McMullen said.

This year she and the rest of the JRE PTO are working on a playground raffle.

"We hope to get businesses in town to donate fairly large items that would draw quite a few people," McMullen said.

The PTO is also looking into possible grants that might help fund the playground renovation at JRE.

"We are applying for a total of four grants," said McMullen. "Two would be for the athletic field and two would be for the rest of the playground equipment."

All of this is necessary because there is no district funding available for the upgrade, according to Ardyth Potter, JRE's second-year principal. The state budget crisis has also eliminated funding from that source.

An information packet developed by the JRE PTO for prospective raffle donors lists the benefits:

Free advertising for your business in the Payson Roundup when ads for the JRE Playground Raffle are run, as well as at the raffle drawing.

Because JRE is a non-profit organization, all donated items are tax-deductible.

Widespread coverage in the Rim country that your business supports issues that matter to your patrons.

Your business name displayed on a wooden sign at the school.

The raffle is tentatively scheduled for the first weekend in October. For more information or to become a donor, call McMullen at 468-2145.

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