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Long-awaited playground equipment headed to new schools

Sherman Avenue Elementary principal Rick Tillotson shows where the playground equipment will be placed at the school. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

A year and a half after Vicksburg Warren School District’s newest facilities opened, playground equipment is on the way.

“We’re excited about it,” said Shirley Stuart, a speech pathologist at Sherman Avenue Elementary, which along with Dana Road’s mega-elementary is scheduled to get equipment after the first of the year. “And the kids are ready for it.”

Playgrounds were not included in the $23 million package that included the Sherman Avenue and Dana Road schools, each of which includes an elementary and an intermediate school.

Construction was behind schedule when the schools opened in August 1999, and school board members at the time said they needed to focus on getting classes open before worrying about playgrounds.

Parents, teachers and students have worked toward remedying that since. The school board is expected to take bids on the equipment next month.

Stuart, who also has a child in the third grade at Sherman Elementary, has headed a school committee for the equipment for the 730 students there.

“It’s been a very lengthy, frustrating process,” Stuart said.

The largest obstacle was funding, Stuart said. One piece of equipment can run up to $15,000, but district funding amounted to only half of that.

To make up the rest, the PTA raised $9,000, the school’s corporate sponsor, Entergy, donated $1,000 and students rallied to generate $1,100.

“What I’m most proud of is what our kids have done,” said Sherman Elementary principal Rick Tillotson.

Students have been recycling aluminum cans for the project and, since the start of the school year, they have collect about 359 pounds. That resulted in $146.

To help raise funds to purchase equipment, the K-4 students also started “Pennies for the Playground,” a project in which children bring in change, and sometimes dollars, and each class competes to see which collects the most to four empty water jugs.

Since the first of the school year, about $1,000 has been dumped in the jars.

“The kids want a playground more than anything,” Stuart said.

Superintendent Donald Oakes said the playground equipment could be set up in March.

Plans call for two additional phases to the playgrounds, which will be laid out in the shape of a globe and each phase will be in the shape of different continents.

The first section, which will include slides, a jungle gym, tunnels and a climbing area, will be in the shape of North America.

“The PTA is going to install it themselves and that will save some money,” Oakes said.

The playground at Sherman Elementary will be located at the north end of the campus. At the opposite side, Warren Central Intermediate principal Dr. Johnny Walls equipment has been ordered using funds allocated by the district and will be installed sometime after the first of the year.

At Dana Avenue Elementary School, the PTO raised $2,000, which was put together with district funds to order the playground equipment.

“Hopefully when we get back from the holidays the equipment will be in,” said school principal Donnell Ellis.

Across the hall at Vicksburg Intermediate School, principal Dr. James Price said equipment would be installed there after the first of the year.

“We’re coming along,” Price said.