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Local school in process of replacing decades-old playground equipment
Committee will continue raising money to go toward project
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Emily Cash gets pun around on one of the new pieces of playground equipment Thursday during recess at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy. The school started working on a new playground six years ago.

Brick campaign

When: Begins today
Cost: $30 for an individual 4-by-8 paver; $125 for a business, club or organization 4-by-8 paver; $125 for a children's original artwork 8-by-8 paver; $250 for a custom company logo 8-by-8 paver

Yard sale

When: 8 a.m. to noon Saturday
Where: Front parking lot at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy

Boosterthon fun run
When: Feb. 16

Enota's Got Talent

When: 6-8 p.m. May 10
Where: Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy

Sponsor equipment

Small business or individual supporter: $250 to $1,000
Silver sponsor: $5,000
Gold sponsor: $10,000
Platinum sponsor: $25,000

Support campus beautification project

Costs vary to sponsor a tree or bench to add to the playground.

Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy in Gainesville is 57 years old. Its playground equipment isn't quite that old, but it is showing its age.

Fifth-grader Sara Hayes, student council president, designed a new playground that had PTA members and school administrators excited.

"Part of my campaign was to make a new playground. When I got elected, I was asked to draw on posterboard the ideal playground," Hayes said.

Her design featured a walking path, a merry-go-round and new soccer fields, as well as traditional play equipment.
Now, six years later, Hayes — a sophomore at Gainesville High School — is having her creation realized.

"From what I've been able to ascertain, the playground is around 25 years old, and the equipment was used when it was installed," said Scarlet Pendarvis, chair of Enota's Stay Fit Play Smart Playground Committee. "It is now beyond repair. There are no available materials to make any repairs."

Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said that until 2003, Enota was either a kindergarten through first grade or a kindergarten through third grade school, meaning most of the playground equipment was geared toward younger kids.

Though the playground has been outdated for several years, there was not enough money in the budget to build a new one.

"We decided to phase it in because we knew it would never happen if we waited and waited for it all to be done at the same time," Pendarvis said.

The city school board allocated $30,000 for one of the major pieces of equipment, which was purchased this year and is already on the playground. Another large piece of equipment is expected to be purchased and installed in the spring.

Those two structures combined "would be what most people would consider a playground," Pendarvis said.

In addition to the equipment, Pendarvis said the campus would be beautified, with landscape provided by the same company that helped create Enota's Smartville Garden, Fockele Gardens.

"The new playground will be handicap-accessible. It will feature a lot of imaginative play and we hope to have some natural elements, rather than just the old-timey slides and monkey bars," Pendarvis said.

She said the ultimate goal of the project is to have pieces of equipment arranged in a circuit, where students could go from one jungle gym to the fort to the swings and so on, without having to touch the ground.

"We have reachable goals and big hairy goals," Pendarvis said.

Those include pulling up the existing concrete, which is dangerous for the kids and also impedes water runoff, and finding ways to install a two-hoop basketball court and a track around the area.

"The track allows teachers to walk during their breaks and makes it easier to monitor kids," Pendarvis said.

Dyer said one of the issues the school board faced aside from a budget crunch was where the money would come from. She said school boards cannot use state funds or ad valorem taxes for extracurricular sports equipment, which includes recess. The way around that is if the equipment is purchased with physical education in mind.

"The stuff we purchased is primarily designed to be for physical education, but it's sitting there all day, so if they want to use it for recess that's perfectly fine," she said, adding the PTA-purchased equipment from fundraisers would be used for recess first and physical education second.

The total budget for the playground project is $175,000, Pendarvis said. She said the project should be finished by spring 2013.

"I think they've done excellent planning and set reasonable goals that we'll work together to reach," Dyer said.

Enota students raised nearly $5,000 last year through a Pennies for Playground fundraiser and the Enota's Got Talent show. Additional fundraisers for this year include a brick-buying campaign, yard sales and the Boosterthon Fun Run. More than $7,000 so far has been donated through private parties and PTA allocations, Pendarvis said.

Pennies for Playground involved students bringing spare change and collecting it in milk jugs.

"We told them to bring in the loose change Dad leaves on the counter or instead of buying ice cream one day, put your ice cream money in the jar," she said.

Private donors have also been helping out. The playground committee has plans galore to continue raising money with the help of the community to make their dreams a reality.

"I would love nothing more than to drive by at 7:30 on a beautiful spring night and see parents walking the track with their kids playing," Pendarvis said. "That's what we want to see."

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