South River School parent Shawna Hoole said she cried when she first saw students climbing all over the school’s new playground.

Hoole, a member of the Parent Teacher Organization’s playground committee, has been working with other parents, the school and the community since last September on the playground, which was formally opened with a ribbon cutting celebration on Saturday, Sept. 28.

The new playground, which incorporates the school’s existing play structure, is expansive, with a variety of unique interactive elements from a zip line to numerous climbing structures to an “American Ninja Warrior”-style fitness circuit.

“The beauty of these pieces of equipment is there’s not just one way to utilize them,” Hoole said. “It really opens up for a lot of imaginative play for every child.”

The playground wasn’t complete when classes started up again, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

“We were a little bit sad it wasn’t ready for the first day of school, but in hindsight it was maybe bit better,” SRS Principal Emily Baird said. “The kids really appreciate it and knew how much hard work it took to actually build it. Every day was an exciting lead up to it.”

During snack time, students would watch the construction process from the side of the field, Baird said, guessing what pieces went where, and what each element would end up becoming.

 

Voters at April’s town meeting approved $175,000 in Community Preservation Act funds for the project, $40,000 of which were used for ADA-compliant pathways to the play area, which will be installed in the coming months.

The playground complies with the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and is designed for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

The Playground Committee raised an additional $45,000 for the playground.

“It was a labor of love for everyone involved,” Hoole said.

In addition to the playground equipment, the school also added a gaga ball pit and a mud kitchen, to provide more options for play, including quieter options.

Kristen Hammers, who attended South River when she was a child, has a daughter, Harper, in the kindergarten at the school, and two younger children who will attend the school eventually as well.

“It’s really great to see how they’re progressing and keeping up,” Hammers said. “It’s so nice to see, because it’s such a difference from the old style playgrounds where everyone is in one little bunch. In here there is so much room for them to run and play. It’s so big, and there’s so much open space for them.”

Harper said her favorite part of the new playground was the zipline, an opinion shared by many of her classmates.

“My favorite part is the zip line,” agreed first grader Rory Donovan. “It goes really fast.”

Formerly, recesses were split between playground and field time; with the new equipment, this is no longer necessary.

“There are so many pieces, but it’s so spread out that there’s so much room,” Baird said. “Even if there’s a whole grade level out there, it doesn’t feel like a lot of kids.”

Baird, too, likes the zip line, saying she rode it at least five times the day it opened.

Eames Way School also received Community Preservation Act money this year for a new playground, following new playgrounds funded at Martinson Elementary in 2017, Governor Winslow Elementary in 2016 and Daniel Webster School in 2015.

“We’re so lucky,” Hoole said. “You can go to a different playground every day and have something different to do.”

Follow James Kukstis on Twitter at @MarinerJamesK.