New Center Elementary School Playground a Symbol of a Chelmsford Community Effort
Center Elementary playground ready for 2022-23 school year
CHELMSFORD, MA (Aug. 31, 2022) – As the Center Elementary School students returned on Aug. 30, they no doubt marveled at the breadth and beauty of their new playground and its many features:
- A seesaw for four
- A basket swing that seats four
- A triangular ropes tower
- Several climbing walls
What is unseen about the state-of-the-art playground – and virtually unknown outside its grounds – is the community effort which drove it from grassroots fundraisers to final inspection.
“Even five years ago, my first year here, there was talk about raising money for a new playground,” said Dianna Fulreader, Principal of the Center Elementary School.
The previous playground, removed by the Chelmsford Highway Department in July, had reached its end-of-use, said Steve Callaghan, a Project Manager for the Town of Chelmsford who oversees all playgrounds.
“It was over 20 years old, which is the typical life span,” Mr. Callaghan said. “Another part of it is change in compliance. The old playground was touching the 50-foot wetlands buffer, so we had to change the location.”
The new playground, located closer to the school, is American Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant with a ramp system and unitary surfacing. “Anyone in a wheelchair can use the equipment without having to get out of the chair at all,” Mr. Callaghan said.
Accessibility and inclusivity were paramount, said Ms. Fulreader. “It is definitely more inclusive,” she noted.
In 2020, Ms. Fulreader and Assistant Principal Donna Omobono, along with Erica Thornton, then the Center School Parent-Teacher Organization (CSPTO) president, and Gerard Wilson, a Center Elementary parent, visited several area playgrounds to gather ideas of what would serve the school best. It marked the first of many collaborations between the school, the Town of Chelmsford and everyone in between, to complete the project.
The Center School Parent-Teacher Organization (CSPTO) contributed $50,000 from several fundraising events, including a Fun Run coordinated by Mr. Wilson, which generated $23,000. “The rest of our fundraising came from years of the CSPTO saving money and having successful fundraising events,” said Ms. Thornton.
Other CSPTO development efforts included the annual Taste of Chelmsford, Bingo nights, a Basket Raffle and Holiday Gift Room.
When the Chelmsford Department of Public Works (DPW) Highway Division removed the previous playground equipment in late July, it did so at no charge. Most of the equipment – matting, swings and several other appliances and pieces of equipment – was able to be repurposed.
“That saved the Town thousands,” said Mr. Callaghan. “That was huge savings for all involved.”
The project has been aided by dozens of volunteers in many areas of need: construction, leveling, distribution of mulch, and establishing boundaries to comply with the required clearance of the wetlands, among other tasks.
Nine employees from Aggregate Industries volunteered three days’ work establishing grades and inputting the border while Chelmsford Public Schools Director of Facilities Brian Curley sent five of his custodial staff to also assist.
“That was huge,” said Mr. Callaghan. “That’s a lot of work we got out of the way that I just couldn’t do.”
Significant donations from Chelmsford Preservation Committee and the Chelmsford School District were also key. “We are very grateful to Jay Lang and the School Committee for contributing the majority of the funding, as well as the Chelmsford Preservation Committee,” said Ms. Thornton.
The playground opened when students returned on Tuesday, Aug. 30. Development of the surrounding land will begin in early September.
A possible ribbon-cutting ceremony is currently in the planning stages.
About Chelmsford Public Schools
The Chelmsford Public School District provides all students with multiple pathways to optimize their own potential for academic excellence, leadership, and social and emotional wellness. The mission of the Chelmsford Public Schools is to educate, engage, prepare, and empower well-rounded and knowledgeable learners to PERSEVERE through challenges, demonstrate RESPECT and INTEGRITY in their words and actions, are DEDICATED to their community, and display EMPATHY as global citizens while discovering and pursuing their full potential. This PRIDE-driven culture enables all members of the school community to support the growth and development of students. For more information, please visit www.chelmsfordschools.org.