Before Feb. 25, students at Ivy Prep Academies did not have a playground.
Rae Ann Harkness, parent of two children at the school, said, “The kids at the school did not have a safe play area at all. They were having to use the parking lot for P.E., and behind the building.
“That’s not a good place for them to run and roll around and really play anything other than dodge ball,” Harkness said. “If they fall, they’re going to get pretty scraped up.”
That was before 125 volunteers from Verint Systems Inc., organizers from KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit dedicated to building playgrounds, and residents of the Kirkwood community descended on the campus to construct a playground, two outdoor classrooms and a garden with 10 raised beds.
This new playground is the second built by KaBOOM! and Verint, and it marks one of more than 150 playground constructions KaBOOM! will lead across the country in 2013. The playground’s design is based on drawings created by Ivy Prep children who participated in a design day event in December.
Nina Gilbert, executive director of Ivy Prep, said the playground will be a place where “our kids can be active and fit and play.
“We have a long day,” Gilbert said. “Students come as early as 7:30 a.m. Some stay as late as 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. for after school programming. They didn’t have a place to play. We do have a gym but it also serves as a cafeteria.
“We want them to able to play as hard as they work,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert praised the work of the volunteers.
“We couldn’t have done this on our own,” Gilbert said. “This is probably going to brighten our kids’ day when they know that they have a very nice area to play.”
Verint employees raised approximately $100,000 for the project to add to the school’s $10,000.
“We are just incredibly grateful and appreciative that they didn’t just make a financial contribution, but they’re putting sweat equity into this,” Gilbert said.
Cheryle Tapp, a credit and collections manager with Verint, said she began the day at 7 a.m. when she painted the map of the United States on concrete outside the school building.
She spent more time “digging out some muck” and on “mulch duty.”
“I thrive for this,” Tapp said about working in the muddy work conditions. “When I was a kid growing up, I was in the mud all the time.”
Tapp said she was “jubilant” about being able help Ivy Prep.
“This morning when I was looking around, digging the holes out, I’m like, ‘we’re not going to get this done in a day,” Tapp said. “This is crazy.’ But look at it now. It’s just amazing. It’s definitely worth it.”
“It’s amazing how fast it went up,” Harkness said. “KaBOOM! is awesome to work with. Verint…has been awesome as well. I would have never imagined they could get this done. Everything came together and they’re really organized.”
“When there’s so much negative news about what’s happening in public education, there’s something really amazing that’s happening here,” Gilbert said. “There needs to be more attention and more focus on the really great things that are happening in schools.”