Wednesday, April 18, 2012

KCK students abuzz with excitement over Somerset playground equipment

By JAY SENTER, Prairie Village Post

The loss of Somerset Elementary was difficult for many in Prairie Village — but part of the school’s history has made for a group of very happy kids several miles to the north.

Silver Spring Elementary officials yesterday formally dedicated a new playground for the school’s 290 students, marking the first time in the school’s history that it’s had real play structures.

All of the new equipment — including two jungle gyms, a swingset and soccer goals — came from Somerset, and were donated by Hunt Midwest, which purchased the school from the Shawnee Mission district last year.

“Before, the kids would just be kind of running around during recess,” said principal J.D. Rios, who took over the head spot at the Kansas City, Kan., school last year. “We had a little structure for the kindergarteners, but nothing for the elementary kids.”

The school had attempted to raise money for a rudimentary playground through its PTA, Rios said, but hadn’t been able to generate enough funds. Just a rudimentary set up can cost upwards of $30,000.

“This is a high-poverty school,” he said. “It’s just very difficult for us to raise that kind of money.”

The donation was largely arranged by Kaler Bole, a former neighbor of Prairie Village Mayor Ron Shaffer, who knew Silver City lacked a playground.

In total, Rios estimates that the value of the equipment it received was well over $100,000. The Kansas City, Kansas, School District paid to have the equipment installed.

Rios said students at the school have been ecstatic.

“It was all the buzz around the halls yesterday — kids saying ‘We get to play on our new playground!’” he said. “This is the kind of thing, in this community, that can be a real motivator for kids to want to come to school. There isn’t anything else like this in the community now. The kids are very appreciative.”