Rockton schools unveil new playground equipment


Former Rockton PTO President Abby Czaja cut the ribbon commemorating the completion and opening of playgrounds in the Rockton School District #140 on Tuesday, Aug. 8.

Rockton Grade School, Whitman Post Elementary, and Stephen Mack Middle School, each in the Rockton #140 School District, now have fun and accessible playground equipment. Stephen Mack now has a unique ninja course.

Marking the completion of a full community partnership, a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony was held on Tuesday evening, Aug. 8, 2023 on the grounds of Rockton Grade School, the first school to be considered to receive equipment.

“What started as a small vision really tripled, but not in terms of the budget, thanks to all of our sponsors, and volunteers,” former Rockton PTO President Abby Czaja said.

Czaja cut the ribbon and followed by recognizing everyone who made the day possible. Special credit was given to Superintendent of Rockton Schools, Glen Terry, who said a few words.

“This is the ultimate example of community, staff, volunteers and our parents to make this happen,” Terry said.

Czaja gave a brief history behind the project.

“This entire project started four years ago, in October of 2019, with the PTO Board of Directors,” Czaja said.

During an initial meeting, 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.

After meeting the right criteria, BCI Burke Playground was chosen to assist with the equipment for the playground project.

Volunteers spent quality time this past summer during a community build working with two project managers from BCI Burke Playground.

“We actually veered away from the first plan of a community build at all three schools after experiencing a very negative experience with Play Illinois out of Westmont, IL,” Czaja said.

“We worked with them for the first five days, but then chose to pivot and contract out the final work at RGS and WPES to Custom Playground Inc., out of Machesney Park,” Czaja said. “They did an absolutely wonderful job!”

After receiving full support, the PTO board immediately began to focus on securing funds to help pay for a new playground at RGS, with the full backing of the school board.

The initial budget for the playground project was $200,000, with the plan for the Board of Education to put in $100,000 and the PTO to raise the other $100,000.

Over time, as the project expanded, the budget needed to bring in all the desired equipment also expanded.

The budget became closer to $285,000 which was covered by the Board of Education, fundraising from the PTO, business sponsorship, and an IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) grant valued at $42,746.

Students in the Rockton School District 140 raised over $42,000 from this year's Fun Run, and all funds went toward the project.

“The SMMS playground was done entirely with community volunteers,” Czaja said. “We had three dads within the district- Kris Czaja, Kelsey Lueshen and Jason Backus - who took charge and led the crew to complete the project in just two and half days!”

Czaja added, “We also had two incredible volunteers who surveyed and mapped out the playgrounds for us - Kip Holzwarth and Eric Zingre.”

Czajia gave special recognition to Superintendent Glen Terry for guiding the district and to Jacob Forsythe for sharing his vision.

Gratitude was extended to International Fragrances & Flavorings who donated a $250 gift card to purchase food for the community build volunteers. They also contributed another $250 to the playground fund. Volunteer Lauren Anderson was credited for running food to other volunteers during the community build.

Plans are to have a business sponsorship plaque added to the equipment, along with recognition on Facebook.

Following the ribbon cutting and recognition, the community was invited to check out the new playground equipment at RGS and at WPES.

Young ones had fun on swings, slides, in mazes, or in unique spaces such as the “Orb Rocker" which is found at WPES.

Young ones and the public visit playgrounds at Rockton Grade School for the first time following completion of new equipment.
Former Rockton PTO President Abby Czaja cut the ribbon commemorating the completion and opening of playgrounds in the Rockton School District #140 on Tuesday, Aug. 8.
New playground equipment had its first visitors on Tuesday, Aug, 8 at Whitman Post Elementary School.
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