Rockton PTO seeks community help to build new playgrounds
(L-R) On the roof: Justin Bonne, assistant principal of Whitman Post Elementary School, Megan Forsythe, principal of Whitman Post Elementary School, Erin Hauser, assistant principal of Rockton Grade School, and Kindyl Etnyre, Rockton Grade School principal.
All three schools in the Rockton #140 School District are receiving new playground equipment, thanks to a strong showing of community support.
Rockton Grade School will get an entirely new playground, Whitman Post Elementary School will get a second playground as theirs was still being used and had equipment that was able to be replaced as needed, and Stephen Mack Middle School will get a brand-new ninja course.
Now, multiple volunteers are needed to help complete the playground build. Volunteers will help assemble equipment with the guidance of two project managers from BCI Burke Playground.
All potential volunteers can view available slots and sign up to help at bit.ly/CommunityPlaygroundBuild.
The current plan is to begin assembly at Rockton Grade School on June 2 . It is hoped that by June 6 that Rockton Grade School and Whitman Post Elementary School will be finished concurrently.
Then volunteers will reconvene on June 15 at Stephen Mack Middle School, hoping to wrap up that build by June 17. June 18 and 19 have been added as built-in flex days for any additional miscellaneous tasks that may need to be completed at any of the schools.
“Because this is a community build, we are happy to accept all adult volunteers that can assist with any of the days/times we have available,” said Abby Czaja, president of the Rockton PTO.
Opting for a “community build” saved approximately 20% on the total cost of the project.
“This was a huge factor in being able to provide more than initially planned on due to the savings on the build itself,” Czaja said.
Four years ago, in October of 2019 new officers were elected to the board of directors for the Rockton PTO (Parent Teacher Organization).
In January of 2020, the newly elected PTO president, Abby Czaja, and newly elected treasurer, Tanya Davidson, had a meeting with the superintendent, Mr. Glenn Terry and the administrative liaison, Kindyl Etnyre, who is principal of Rockton Grade School.
The meeting focused on what the highest needs for the District were at that time. A new playground at Rockton Grade School was identified as a top priority due to the age of the equipment, lack of accessibility, inability to replace missing and broken pieces of equipment, and not having age-appropriate equipment for the preschool programs that are housed at RGS.
The PTO Board immediately began to focus their fundraising on securing funds to help pay for a new playground at Rockton Grade School.
“As we all know, COVID-19 hit in March of 2020. Although the fundraisers being held had to take on a different form, the focus remained on continuing to provide for all of the school programs that were already being funded while raising additional funds that would go specifically toward the playground,” Czaja said.
Czaja reflects back, “The Board of Education was very supportive of the plan and a partnership was established.”
The initial budget for the playground project was $200,000,with the plan for the Rockton Board of Education (BOE) to put in $100,000 and the PTO to raise the other $100,000.
Over time the project expanded, the budget needed to bring in all the desired equipment also expanded.
The final cost of the project through completion of the build is pending due to costs associated with the build itself, but the budget is now closer to $285,000 which is covered by the BOE, fundraising from the PTO, business sponsorship, and an IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) grant valued at $42,746.
“We initially attempted to contact three different companies and received quotes from two,” Czaja said.
“Due to the expediency of communication and the lower cost, after meeting with the administration and receiving approval from the BOE, BCI Burke Playground was chosen as the company who would work with the district to assist with the playground project.”
As time progressed, the initial plan was expanded to include all three District 140 schools.
Where the money came from
Multiple fundraisers have been held since the conception of a playground build. “We have always ensured that we did not cut costs from other programs that were still of value to the school and community, and instead decided we would allot any surplus specifically to funding the playground build,” Czaja said.
“For the last one and half years, the majority of fundraising efforts have gone toward being able to fund the playgrounds.”
This year, the PTO focused specifically on the Fun Run, and on raising money to finish collecting what was needed to fully fund the playgrounds.
Students had a community goal of $25,000, with various incentives being offered.
Due to the generosity of Wendy’s and Culver’s, every student who brought in any donation amount received a coupon for a free Frosty from Wendy’s. Those who raised at least $50 were rewarded with free kids’ meals at both Wendy’s and Culver’s.
Additional drawings were done at each school for students who raised at least $100. The top two earners at each school and district wide were guaranteed prizes.
Dairyhaus, iRoof Exteriors, Beloit Sky Carp, and Meraki Salon & Studio all helped by donating prizes.
Cathy Bellich of State Farm Insurance donated the District Grand Prize which was a Nintendo Switch gaming package valued at about $550.
By the end of a three week period, students and their families brought in close to $43,000 from the Fun Run.
As a reward for each school hitting or surpassing their fundraising goal of $12,000, the principals from RGS and WPES once again stayed overnight on the roof of RGS on May 23.
Strong community and business partnerships have been developed within the last few months, and identified different levels of sponsorship.
Several sponsors in different levels have generously donated to make the playgrounds a reality.
Platinum Sponsors ($10,000+) are : Rockton Lion’s Club, Booster Club, and REEF.
Gold Sponsors ($5,000-$9,999) : SMMS Student Council, Silver Sponsors ($2,500-$4,999,), Country Financial, Complete Mechanical Solutions, and The Bruno & Lena DeGol Family Foundation.
Bronze Sponsors ($1,000-$2,499) : Caver Law Offices, Cathy Bellich – State Farm, Gloria and Terry Burgan, and the family of Joey Beard.
“We are able to donate half of the equipment at RGS that is being torn down to Kids Around the World. Unfortunately, they could not use all of what we will be tearing down due to the difficulty of reconstructing it with the specific types of screws that were used during assembly,” Czaja said.
“We are grateful that at least some of the equipment will be enjoyed by children throughout the world,” Czaja said.
“We hope that our new playgrounds will be enjoyed by not only our students, but by the community at large. There is not much available in terms of accessible playground equipment in the surrounding area, and we are proud to bridge that gap and provide playgrounds that can be enjoyed by all children.”