New playground makes recess more fun

Published 11:20 pm Wednesday, March 5, 2014


O n most school days, motorists passing in front of Straughn Elementary School can look out their windows and view the end result of a lot of recent hard work from community members.

SES physical education teacher Stephanie Phillips said the school’s new playground was installed in October, but efforts to put the equipment in place began much earlier.

“The equipment we had was getting old, and I told (Principal Bettye Anne) Older we had to do something about it,” Phillips said. “Mrs. Older has been one of the main people behind this and we immediately started looking at companies we could use.”

Phillips said the playground that now sits at SES is the result of the hard work of three specific organizations, as well as the luck of a finding a very special, Alabama-based company.

“It took a whole school-wide effort to make this happen,” Phillips said. “It took the school and the physical education department, the PTO and the 21st Century after school program to do it. We kind of thirded the cost.”

Phillips said each organization put in plenty of work through fundraisers in order to raise enough capital to purchase the equipment.

“It was just amazing to see people get together and do fundraising,” she said. “We sold t-shirts. There was field day and the beauty pageant we do. There were catalogue sales. It was just a community effort.”

Phillips said that “community effort” even extended into northern Alabama when the school found a company willing to put a personal touch on the equipment.

“We found a company, Hammill Recreation, right here in Alabama,” she said. “Me and Mrs. Older kind of fell in love with that. They make it here in Alabama and they brought it down and put it together right here at the school.”

Phillips said the company even worked out special pricing for the equipment and made sure it was accessible for children with special needs.

“The sales lady we worked with had a niece that was a special needs student, so it was real important to her that it be special needs accessible,” Phillips said. “The company kind of looks at what you can afford and then they tailor it to your needs, so we kind of got a discount on what we expected to spend. It was just a great experience. They were just good, Alabama people.”

Phillips said the efforts to bring the playground to SES even extended into the realm of elected officials, as Covington County Commissioner Joe Barton stepped in to help with a hands-on approach.

“He came out here and moved all of the old equipment,” she said. “He was here early in the morning and at 5:30 in the afternoon working. We couldn’t have done this without Mr. Joe.”

Because of the overwhelming support from the community, coupled with the great experience with ordering the equipment, Phillips said SES may be looking to add even more to the playground in as early as two years.

“Just to see parents and kids get excited and work together, it was just a nice thing the way it happened,” she said.