New Haven strives for new playground equipment

New Haven strives for new playground equipment

Jordan Rogers

In recent years New Haven Elementary (NHE) has undergone numerous renovations and updates to the school to accommodate its diverse and growing population. One constant over the 27 years, however, has been the playground equipment.
Earlier this year, the school entered to be part of Culturelle’s Project Playground, a national contest to win $100,000 towards new playground equipment. New Haven is home to more than 250 students, including two classrooms with students who have special needs and may not be able to access the school’s current equipment.
“The ground around the structure is covered in rubber tire chips.  A student in a wheelchair is unable to move through the tire chips and students with balance difficulties have trouble walking on the surface as it shifts under their feet,” said Laura Borghardt, learning specialist at New Haven. “There are features of the structure that are accessible to all students, but there are also features that are difficult to access.”
In order to get the word out to the community, staff and families bought t-shirts, put out flyers and spread the word through social media. While they came up nearly 5,000 votes short of the prize, staff members were proud of the efforts by the community.
“I’ve been at New Haven for six years and with the district for eight. When I was asked to lead New Haven I didn’t even know where it was located,” said New Haven Principal Carole Garth. “Now, over the past few years, I’ve met many people who would ask, ‘New Haven, where is that?’. This playground project has ‘put us on the map’. People know where we are, who we are, and our needs and even though we didn’t win, the outpouring of support from the Columbia community has been overwhelming.”
Teachers, staff and family at New Haven raised awareness of the contest by posting to different social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The news spread quickly, even reaching students at Rock Bridge.
“It shows how much “word to mouth” and social media had on the impact. I saw a lot of tweets and retweets about people voting for New Haven, and how they were trying to receive funding to get new playground equipment,” junior DJ Baker said. “Playground equipment is a really good way for kids to get our their energy and just kind of socialize with their peers.”
Not winning the contest was simply just a bump in the road for New Haven, who has already began its own fundraising for a new playground. They hope to be able to provide students a playground that is safe and accessible for all students at the school.
“We have a fundraising campaign ready, but have been told that district funds may be allotted for New Haven for the playground,” Garth said. “Though we know it will not be $100,000, we want to fundraise fully aware of our need.”
New Haven tallied approximately 45,000 votes, which is undoubtedly an impressive feat for a school that is home to just over 200 students. Students and staff worked together as a conjoined effort to campaign and raise awareness to the school’s playground.
“It was fantastic to see everyone working so hard. Our entire staff came together to get the community involved. People were talking about the contest who had no connection to New Haven,” Borghardt said. “Current and former families came together to support our campaign.  Our New Haven students felt so special knowing that thousands of people were voting for them. The New Haven community is so thankful for all who supported our little school.”