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New GES playground set for February 2018

The students at Greenville Elementary School can look forward to a brand-new playground in 2018, not to mention the addition of a new pastime: Ga-Ga Ball, anyone?

Butler County Schools System technology specialist Matthew Shell, whose past experience with construction projects via his family led Superintendent John Strycker to ask for his assistance with the playground project, was on hand at the most recent BOE meeting in McKenzie to share details of the new play area and other additions with the school board and audience members.

“We’ve added a lot of new construction at the elementary school, which was definitely needed, but it was at the expense of the children’s playground,” explained Shell. “Greenville Elementary has only third and fourth grade students, but their student body is equal in size to your entire student body here in McKenzie. And right now there are no swings, no jungle gym—nothing.”

Shell shared handouts of the colorful assortment of playground equipment the system will be purchasing for the new play space, which is located behind the school, adjacent to a former farm league ball field dating back to the early 20th century.

“This image doesn’t even really do the equipment justice. You could say we got lucky. We talked to two different companies and one is going to supply us with the same sort of high-quality, durable equipment we’d get from the other one, only for a fraction of the cost,” Shell explained. “This company wants to end the calendar year with all finished equipment sold, so we are getting probably twice as much equipment than we could otherwise afford.”

The new equipment is designed with several interconnecting pieces allowing students to climb, tunnel, slide and swing their way through the playground.

“We will also have some special swings that are handicapped accessible, along with what is the equivalent of a modern day tire swing for multiple kids—they can wind and then unwind their swings up and down a pole. And there’s even a spinning chair,” said Shell.

Before the equipment can be installed, the space has to be properly surfaced with required drainage in place.

“We hope to find some local folks who can help us out in finishing the project. The company tells us it should take about two weeks to install the equipment once everything else is ready. We are looking at February 2018 for the installation,” Shell added.

GES’s new playground is “just one piece of a bigger vision,” said Strycker—one that includes a performance amphitheater that will be available for not only school programs, but church and community events, as well as a picnic area.

“Those bleachers for the baseball field were covered in so much earth and so many vines they were actually preserved and just needed a good cleaning up,” the superintendent said. “Concrete pads are already in place where band concerts, choral performances and plays could be presented and there will be plenty of seating. This space won’t just be for the school, but something the entire community can enjoy.”

And then there’s Ga-Ga. No, not the musical superstar.

“Ga-Ga ball is apparently a big hit with the ‘Yankees,’” joked Shell.

Described as a “kinder, gentler form of dodgeball,” Shell said the fast-paced, high-energy game is played in an octagonal pit with a foam ball. According to www.gagacenter.com, Ga-Ga combines the skills of running, jumping, dodging and striking, all the while trying to hit the opponents with the ball below the knees (the name comes from the Hebrew, literally meaning “touch-touch”).

“The kids up north absolutely love this game and we are all about getting our kids to be more active . . . so we have two ga-ga pits planned just off to the side of the playground,” said Strycker.

The superintendent encourages local citizens to drive by the site and check out where all these new additions to the GES campus will be located.

The board next plans to meet for a work session on Wednesday night, December 13.