By Terry D. Wright
For the Daily Call
PIQUA — Playground equipment on the current campus of Piqua Catholic Pre-School was old, outdated and constructed for older children. “The playground project was initiated because while the old structure was an amazing piece of playground equipment, we needed an age-appropriate structure for our young children,” said Jennifer R. Smith, director of The Center for Early Learning at Piqua Catholic Schools. Smith began with $4,500 from previous start-up donations and quickly added $2,700 from a Piqua Community Foundation Grant; The Piqua Catholic PTO’s contribution of $1,000; St. Mary’s Church donation of $1,000; and St. Boniface Church donation of $1,000.
“The total project cost $16,000, which includes new main structure, two standalone structures (monkey bars and swing), new timbers, new mulch, and installation. The old structure was demolished and pea gravel removed by Jerry Voisenet and John Voisenet, Devin Jefferiers, and his neighbor Tim Rogers and the seminarians, Andrew Hess, Michael Jacob and Zach Cecil. The old site will be turned into a grass area and a garden area during the next phase of the project,” Smith said.
Smith said there were many considerations when choosing the correct equipment for young students. “Specifically,” Smith noted, “the age recommendation of the structures which include 2-5 years, 5-12 years or 2-12 years.”
Once those specifications were addressed Smith noted, “…we were looking for a structure that would accommodate 20-plus children. We were fortunate to find a structure that fit our needs at a close out price.”
The contractor for the new playground was Acute Recreation Columbia City, Ind. After the equipment was secured with the desired measurements, “We relocated the playground area from the old area because we would have had 26 posts to dig out of 4 feet of concrete. Relocating it to the grassy area was more efficient. The old area will eventually be turned into a garden area, and outdoor classroom and green space.” Additionally, her concerns were “(adding) different dimensions for railings, fall height, post spacing, and climber distance to be specific.” Those figures would need to correspond with the age ranges.
Physical exercise wasn’t the only concern Smith had while considering the type of playground equipment. “Outdoor physical activity time is a critical component of a child’s physical, social and cognitive development, especially for young children. Movement and play help children develop these skills and more. Our next step is to build a natural outdoor classroom which will include a garden area as well as space for outdoor learning to take place,” Smith said.
She also stated that the playground project could not have been completed without the help of the following business donors: Francis Office Supply, Jamieson Yannucci Funeral Home, Miami Valley Centre Mall, Smitty’s Bike and Lock Shop, Town and County Pools, Covault Brothers, Readmore Hallmark, Piqua, Pizza Supply, Scott Family McDonald’s, and Crazy Martins.
All other contributions have come from parish families, preschool families, and other private donors.
“We are currently short $2000, but an anonymous donor has challenged us to raise half of it and he will match it. The result was that we were able to purchase a new structure at a very reasonable price. We received quotes from three other companies and this was by far the best option,” Smith said.
“We have been humbled by the overwhelming support the preschool has received from the community for this project. Our preschool had a wonderful first year and we are looking forward to a bright and successful future. We will be having a playground blessing on August 16 at 11:00 am for past and current families as well as all those who donated to the project,” said Smith.
“We are always happy to welcome volunteers into our program. The specific times we are in need of volunteers are on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 4-6 p.m. Volunteers serve as helpers with the children, reading or playing. Volunteers serve as the second adult in the building to ensure our compliance with the Virtus Child Protection Training,” Smith said. All volunteers must complete a background check, finger printing and Virtus Child Protection Training. Anyone who is interested in volunteering can call the preschool at 773-3876 to begin the process.