Originally published for The Sun Chronicle on October 5, 2016.
NORTH ATTLEBORO — On any given afternoon, students race toward the Falls Elementary School playground as soon as the 3:15 p.m. dismissal bell sounds — their parents patiently chatting as the youngsters grab a few extra minutes of play before heading home.
The wooden structures with slides, swings, tire ladders and more is a beloved community playground, often used outside of school hours.
But now, parents say the almost 25-year-old structure is beyond repair, it’s deteriorating condition leading to bumps and bruises — sometimes more serious breaks and sprains — for the dozens of kids who storm the playground daily.
“For us as parents, we look at a new playground as a necessity,” North Attleboro mom Kellie Michel said. “We watch our kids on the playground almost every day, and you can see kids getting hurt almost daily. As a parent, your biggest goal is to keep your kids safe and other kids in the community safe. We can’t let this go any further.”
But in a tight fiscal year, a new playground isn’t exactly in the school budget. So, parents of the Falls School PTO group have taken the initiative.
Michel, co-chairwoman of the PTO playground committee, said the group is trying to raise $60,000 for a new playground that would meet modern safety and accessibility standards.
Most wooden playgrounds last only 15 years, so renovation of the Falls School structures are largely overdue.
“It’s getting on the older side,” co-chairwoman Natalie Reale said.
“There are parts of the playground where the wood is breaking, and the bridge sometimes has a board or two missing and we have to wait for it to be replaced,” Michel added. “In other places, it’s just completely falling apart.
“So, we’re looking at the newest, safest options while still trying to do it in the most affordable way possible.”
On a raised, crushed stone surface, the playground now sees its share of trips and scrapes, Michel said, but the new playground will sit ground-level on a softer mulch surface.
It will feature three slides, spiderweb and mountain climber jungle gyms, swings, tunnels, bridges and more.
And, while $60,000 is no small sum, fundraisers are already under way, services to demolish the old playground have already been donated, and 10 families and a local business have already come up with $16,000.
So, more is needed.
The group is looking for donors, volunteers for events and large sponsors, and is accepting donations for raffles and services toward construction of the project.
Their biggest fundraiser, a community auction, will be held March 24 at Highland Country Club in Attleboro.
With the community’s support, the group hopes to reach its goal by the end of March so the playground can be installed next summer.
“We just want a safe space for our kids to play,” Reale said. “A lot of people outside of the school utilize this space, as well, so we’re hoping they’ll show their support.”
For more information or to donate: www.fallsschoolpto.com. Checks can also be made out to Falls PTO and mailed to Falls School PTO, 2 Jackson Street, North Attleboro, MA 02763.