Hastings Public Schools raises funds to upgrade playgrounds

Published: Oct. 17, 2023 at 8:32 PM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - Playgrounds at five Hastings Elementary Schools, including Alcott, Lincoln, Watson, Hawthorne and Longfellow, could be receiving a few upgrades soon, but the school district is in need of funds for the Project Playground to officially launch.

Back in 2014, all the Hastings Elementary Schools were provided funding for building renovations. However, due to a bonding issue that left playgrounds outside the picture. Now nine years later the Hastings Public Schools Foundation is looking to change that in the next couple years.

The total cost for the project is $500,000 and the foundation is looking for donations. These new upgrades to the playgrounds will focus on accessibility, new equipment, a change in surfacing and adding more shaded areas.

Alcott Elementary Principal, Charla Brant says not only do the students use it one to three times a day for recess but the community uses it during their leisure time.

“Anytime of the day on weekends, anytime it is nice, you will see families playing out on the playground, people walking over to the playground,” she said. “Adding to this and making this a community area would be a huge asset for our community.”

Executive Director for the foundation, Chris Schukei says improving the outside experience can have a positive impact.

“Recess is such a key part of any child’s experience in school and research shows a better recess experience is better in the classroom for students, better behavior,” he said. “We want to get the playgrounds up to speed here throughout all the Hastings elementary schools.”

If the project does raise enough funds, Schukei and staff already know the next steps they will take.

“We are going to stretch it over two years. We would like to start some of the playgrounds in the summer of 2024 and do the rest of the construction on playgrounds in the summer of 2025,” he said. “There is some matching funds from the Hastings Public Schools that the board of education has approved.”

The playground at Alcott Elementary school is more than three decades old and Brant said not a whole lot of upgrades have been made since. She said this has been a long-time coming.

“Our playground needs a huge upgrade. We have students playing out here all the time,” Brant said. “We are really excited about the possibility of some new features for kids, new accessibility for kids, so that we can include everyone in our playground. "

Brant said the community’s support has never let down the school district.

“I think our community has been amazingly supportive of our schools. We did all of these building upgrades, they have been so support and this is just the next step,” Brant said. “It would be great if we could have an updated playground for the kids, for the use of the community. The kids would be so happy.”