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The Times
  • Years in the making, kindergarten playground opens at Benton Hall

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  • The laughter of children echoed outside of Benton Hall Academy shortly after school officials formally opened the new Kinder Park playground Friday.
    A ceremony took place next to the playground after the kindergarten classes and pre-K classes gathered outside on a cool, sunny day to thank those involved with getting the playground built.
    Then some of the children had a chance let loose on the new equipment.
    “I want to acknowledge and thank the kindergarten teachers for their patience and persistence,” said Little Falls City School District Business Manager Clete McLaughlin. “We’ve been trying to get this out here for many, many years.”
    McLaughlin said the enclosed space outside of the kindergarten wing at Benton Hall was left open specifically for a playground, but was never constructed when the school was remodeled in the 1990s.
    “We’ve been wanting to do this for years, but it’s been difficult financially to justify this,” he said.
    McLaughlin said funds were made available by refinancing a bond at a lower interest rate, which saved the district about $45,000. The school board decided to use this money to construct the playground for a total of $46,000.
    Craig Boyko, design consultant with Texas-based Grounds for Play, said the kindergarten teachers were involved with the design of the playground.
    It includes a playhouse, a D-Loop overhang, a suspended lily pad bridge, a totem climber, a rock wall, a balance beam and art design panels.
    “I’m very, very, very, very happy to see you all and even more happy to hear how much you enjoy the playground,” Boyko said to the children gathered at the ceremony.
    Children already had a chance to play with the equipment in June and during this first week of school, but school officials said this was a chance to thank those involved with getting the playground built.
    Benton Hall Academy opened a new playground last year in Eastern Park, also designed by Grounds for Play, for a total of $126,000. That playground was funded through the help of grants and donations from community members. A new playground needed to be constructed after the previous one had to be razed.
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