Come out swinging: CAES parents, kids kick off ambitious plan for new playground

By Cynthia Prairie
©2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

A group of parents, school staff and students have come together to begin working on a plan to replace Chester-Andover Elementary School’s well-worn 25-year-old playground known to generations simply as “The Structure.”

Christine Anderson, foreground, and CAES facilities manager Jim Spaulding flank an eagle-headed contraption that will be used to collect donations for the new playground at CAES. Photo by Cynthia Prairie.

Christine Anderson, foreground, and CAES facilities manager Jim Spaulding flank an eagle-headed contraption that will be used to collect donations for the new playground at CAES. Photo by Cynthia Prairie.

The effort began several years ago when maintenance on the castle-like Structure began to get overwhelming and some children began picking up splinters from the pressure-treated lumber. Two years ago, Chris Meyer of the Parent-Teacher Group at CAES, told The Telegraph that the school district had inspected the structure and concluded that it has a shelf life of about three years. At the time, he expected to see it dismantled by the end of 2016.

But before the hard work of dismantling this much storied piece of the community gets under way, organizers behind the new playground must raise funds for one that incorporates the modern attributes of sustainability and environmental-friendliness with good old-fashioned durability. The playground, designated for kids ages 5 to 12, will be usable during all four seasons, and will be American-made of heavy-duty plastic and steel that’s powder-coated rather than painted. Components of the playset are warranted for up to 25 years.

The goal, according to PTG members Meyer and Christine Anderson, is $100,000. And while that seems ambitious, both believe it is attainable through direct donations and grants, even if they purchase the pieces in phases as donations come in. Both look to the new playground at Flood Brook Elementary School in Londonderry for inspiration.

In an initial meeting held at the school on Monday, Meyer, Anderson, CAES facilities chief Jim Spaulding, student government members Riley Plummer and Angelina Cole and Principal Katherine Fogg flipped through catalogs and pondered the possibilities with Tyson Taft, of Playworld, a maker of multi-use public play equipment for all ages.

The group has already planned two fund-raising events at the elementary school:

Saturday, April 9 from 4 to 7 p.m. Community Meal with silent auction.

The meal is free, with food and kitchen help donated by Black River Produce. There will be two seatings — at 4:30 and 6 p.m. — and the silent auction will be throughout the evening. Funds will go to both the Chester Fire Department and the new playground. Volunteers to help at the event are needed as are hungry attendees. Volunteers can call Christine Anderson at 802-380-6940 or Chris Meyer at 802-342-3139.

Friday, May 6, daylong, Fill the Floor
Each CAES class will be given space on the floor of the cafeteria to fill with coins. Lunches will be held in the classrooms that day. The class that fills the most space wins a pizza party.  Businesses and individuals are encouraged to participate by donating and dropping off rolls and jars of coins at the school. Those funds will then be divided evenly among the classes.

Ongoing: Pennies for the Playground
Containers will be placed around Chester to take donations of coins, dollars and checks.

Checks should be made out to CAES PTG, with playground fund in the memo line. They can be mailed or dropped off at the school, 72 Main St. in Chester, 05143. For more information, contact Meyer at 802-342-3139.

And what will happen to The Structure? It won’t go away completely. The Chester Fire Department has already said it would like to move it to a new site and continue to use it for training fire fighters to move through – what else – structures.

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Filed Under: AndoverChesterCommunity and Arts LifeEducation NewsFeaturedIn the Community

About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 30 years. She has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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