Madison County Schools and Community Install Playgrounds at K-5 Schools


MARCH HILL – “This is what happens when you bring the whole community together,” said County Commissioner Michael Garrison, who was one of more than 15 community volunteers who helped set up the two new Mars Hill Elementary playgrounds on November 17th.

The Mars Hill Project was part of the Madison County Schools initiative to install new play areas at the county’s three elementary schools as part of a grant it received from Dogwood Health Trust, according to Brush Creek Elementary principal Susan Jackson.

Jackson said the county’s three elementary school principals got together and decided that the playgrounds will give students the opportunity to spend more time outdoors.

“The three elementary school principals got together and we were just discussing playground safety and more opportunities for our kids to get outside,” Jackson said. “Then we started to think about different ways to get the kind of gear we need. When it comes to pricing, we knew we couldn’t do it with the help of our PTO and volunteers. So we started looking for opportunities with different types of grants. ”

According to the director, the grant stipulated that community members were to help with the installation process. Much like Madison County, the community has shown up for its local students.

Superintendent Will Hoffman said the grant is $ 450,000 and includes two playgrounds at Mars Hill and one at each elementary school in Brush Creek and Hot Springs.

Hoffman thanked Dogwood Health Trust in a statement to The News Record.

“Rural communities like Madison County continue to experience high rates of obesity and diabetes with limited open public spaces for activities during regular hours and after school hours,” Hoffman said. “The need for improved playgrounds has increased dramatically due to COVID-19 and the negative toll social isolation has had on our students over the past 20 months. Socio-emotional health, fresh air, problem solving, interaction with other students, and a general release of anxiety are essential for our students. ”

According to the superintendent, the playground equipment is also ADA compliant.

Madison County Schools Maintenance Supervisor Andy Gregg, second from left, said he was looking for volunteers to help set up the Hot Springs Elementary children's play set.  The project will start on December 6.

“We are adding inclusive play equipment to our playgrounds that students with disabilities can easily access,” Hoffman said. “Our 1,100 elementary students will all benefit as these play areas are active during school hours and after hours when our schools are often open to the public for our youth as some of the only recreation areas in Hot Springs,” Marshall and Mars Hill. ”

Volunteers from three county churches, including Middle Fork Church, Bull Creek Church, and Vision Missionary Baptist Church, participated in the project. Large French EMC and Specialists in playgrounds in Charlotte DG Services also helped with the project.

Grading of the Mars Hill project began on November 15, while the project at Brush Creek began on November 8.

According to school system maintenance supervisor Andy Gregg, completing the project is the culmination of a long process.

“We’ve been talking about this for a while,” said Gregg. “We knew we could save a lot of money and get the whole community involved. I thought it was a good project to do this way. It worked really well. We had a lot of help (to Mars Hill). ”

Garrison was on-site Nov. 16-17 to help grade and pour concrete at Mars Hill Elementary.

“Everyone is excited about this,” Garrison said. “(DG Services project manager) Mark Brooks said it’s the difference between places like here and where they work in big cities: people don’t go out (to volunteer) like they do here. ”

Children’s excitement

Community volunteers helped set up two new playgrounds at Mars Hill Elementary starting November 15th.

Mars Hill assistant principal Stephanie Cody said some students were watching eagerly from inside the school.

“We’re excited about this,” Cody said. “Probably about 15 years ago we started doing a 5K run trying to raise money for playground equipment. It’s exciting to see that come to fruition, that feeling of ‘We’re going have that big massive playground equipment. ‘ Without the grant we would never have been able to afford it. (The volunteer aspect of the grant) makes it all the more special to our community as she is now interested in it and can say that she has helped build this playground for these children. ”

According to Jackson, the students were consulted during the preliminary design process and were not modest in their recommendations.

“They’re so excited, and it’s great for them to see how the process has gone,” Jackson said. “They helped design a lot of things. Of course, they asked for pools and ziplines, and that’s just not possible. But a lot of the things they asked for, we tried to fit things in. that we bought. They wanted swings so we made sure we had plenty of swings. We made sure there were climbers on the equipment so the kids could climb safely and get a lot energy they need. ”

Like Garrison, Jackson said the impact of community members makes all the difference.

“Our volunteers were the biggest winners in all of this because they helped us a lot with setting up the actual playground. The volunteers are the people who actually organized this – not the paid people. So we really want to thank all those volunteers who put in the time and effort to make this happen for the kids. ”

Gregg said the school system is looking for volunteers to help set up its elementary playground for Hot Springs, which begins December 6. Those interested should contact Principal Jennifer Mills at [email protected], or by calling the school at 828-622- 3293.


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