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Woodsdale Working Toward Community Playground

WHEELING — Woodsdale Elementary School Principal Ashlea Minch is hoping her students’ learning environment will be as exciting outside of the building as it is within the school’s walls.

The school’s PTO, or parent-teacher organization, is working to collect the funding necessary to construct a new playground at the school, and plans for it have already started. Minch said the project began in October, and she hopes the playground will be a reality by the start of next school year.

She commended Woodsdale Elementary School PTO Playground Committee members Kathleen Wack, Erika Weidner, Stacy Russell and Meagan Kirchner for their hard work in organizing the playground fund drive. Several other parents and community members are helping as well. The project is expected to cost approximately $100,000.

Minch said school officials and PTO members envision the playground as an outdoor gymnasium. She said the playground will have standard playground equipment and basketball hoops, and will also have special features like a rock-climbing wall, an outdoor learning space, gardens and landscaping.

Minch said the school’s current playground is simply a large blacktop surface on which students play various games during recess. She said the current surface results in “a lot of Band-Aids on scraped knees.”

According to Minch, a new playground would offer students more enjoyment and exercise, which are important during a child’s school day.

“We want our students to be involved in exciting sensory things like the rock-climbing wall,” she said. “We focus so much on academics and testing that we’ve lost focus on one of the most essential components of a child’s life — play. This project will provide more opportunities for physical activity while at school.”

Minch and the Woodsdale PTO are working with the city of Wheeling to create a shared-use agreement for the playground. She said the goal is to have the playground available to the entire community beyond school hours.

“We want it to be something that everyone can enjoy,” she said. “Ultimately, we want to have a playground that looks beautiful and benefits our students during the school day. But, we also want it to be a place in which families and children can have fun and play in the evenings and on weekends.”

“This is a Woodsdale Elementary School project, but our children are the community,” Minch added. “That makes it a Woodsdale community project.”

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