Children ran in excitement as the gates to the new Benton Hall Academy playground opened on Wednesday at noon.
During elementary orientation on Tuesday, Principal Joe Long announced the playground would finally be ready the next day and invited the children to come out and play.
“The children have been without a playground for 18 months and they really missed it,” said Long.
The old playground was torn down in the spring of 2011 due to wood rotting below the surface. District Business Manager Clete McLaughlin said, “the playground was becoming a safety concern and we didn’t want to chance anybody getting hurt.”
Through several donations and contributions the district was able to raise $126,643.24 in funding for the playground.
“The playground was made possible because of the community and city workers who have helped out throughout the entire process as well as Clete McLaughlin, who was the driving force of the entire project,” Long said.
Secretary to Superintendent Marlene Quartino added, “The playground is absolutely beautiful, I watched the playground as it was being built and it’s amazing how nice it is and how it incorporates the esthetics of the school.”
“It’s great that kids finally have somewhere to play and release their energy, they have been waiting almost two years and once they found out it would be ready they started bugging me all morning to come and play,” Jessica Chandler, mother of Abigail Chandler, a Benton Hall Academy student.
“Everyday for the past year and a half I’ve looked out my office window and haven’t seen a playground and now there is one here,” Long said. “Watching the kids enjoy the new playground makes me feel as if this is my first car, actually it feels even better than that.”
The playground was completed a week before elementary students head back to school on Sept. 5.
To commemorate the generosity of all the playground donors, a dedication ceremony will take place in September in which a bronze plaque donated by the Burrows Paper Foundation will be placed adjacent to the entrance of the playground in Eastern Park.