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New playground opens at Lawrence Elementary

Facility is community effort that began years ago


The playground at Lawrence Elementary in Arvada came to life again Aug. 15 with youths climbing on ropes, swinging on new swings, sliding down new slides and filling the outdoor play area with laughter, smiles and joy.

“I’m really excited because it’s a lot of new stuff that I’ve never played on,” incoming fourth-grader Sera Young said while climbing a web of ropes on the new playground. “I like climbing a lot.”

Her best friend, Ava Dudley, climbed next to her. In addition to the two being in the same class this year, Dudley said she is most excited to have fun playing with friends on the new playground this school year.

The dream of building a new playground at Lawrence Elementary, 5611 Zephyr St., started several years ago — before principal Chris Benisch took the reins three years ago. But it became a reality in 2016, when the school received a $100,000 Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant. The Lawrence community also raised an additional $40,000 to complete the playground and volunteered their time and labor to build it.

“It was huge bringing the community together,” said Angie Rowlette, family engagement liaison at Lawrence.

The additional funds were raised through coin collections, T-shirt sales, Parent Teacher Association fundraisers, students paying $1 to wear pajamas to school and significant community donors who wished not to be named.

Benisch said that after articles in the Arvada Press ran in 2016 raising awareness of the project, the school received several checks from community supporters who wanted to invest in the project.

The school’s previous 150-square-foot playground, while functional, had high, unreachable aluminum bars, limited and aging equipment, and was not handicapped-accessible. It also had a gravel surface, which Rowlette said injury when students fell.

There was a slide that was broken and equipment eventually had to be removed for safety concerns.

“We found that kids were not wanting to play on the playground before,” Benisch said. “Now, the idea is to provide a better environment for play.”

The playground consists of new plastic structures, several slides and climbing equipment, a preschool play zone, engineered wood fiber surface, an outdoor classroom and a walking track, all of which is be accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“It’s more reflective of what kids wanted to pay on,” Benisch said.

Students will have playground and outdoor space access for 20 minutes before school and during outdoor recess, which is 20 minutes during lunches.

Rowlette said one goal is for teachers to utilize the outdoor space as a classroom on nice days.

But it’s not just for students. The playground and outdoor space is open to the community on outside school hours.

“This is not our playground,” Benisch said. “It’s not the school’s, this was a community project.”


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