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Head Start, NCSD partner to provide new playground for preschool students

Published: Friday, Sept. 28, 2012 12:00 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Sept. 28, 2012 12:07 p.m. CST

The Emerson Hough fort playground now may be demolished, but kids still can be seen playing outside the preschool facility.

Thanks to a roughly $70,000 gift from the federally funded Drake University Head Start child development program — a program for income restricted families that shares the building and even serves some of the same students enrolled in the Newton Community School District preschool program — a new playground was erected at the end of August.

“They approached us last year and they had some unencumbered funds that they needed to spend, and we were in need of some playground expansion,” said Jim Gilbert, director of elementary educational services, of the partnership.

So Eric Smith, supervisor of maintenance and facilities, got to work right away to secure the necessary equipment and labor to make the project a reality.

“Those fellas were phenomenal, and I think they really cared about the work quality,” Gilbert said of the local inmates who helped build the structure. “That was a great teaming of a project for kids.”

The expanded playground now includes a fenced in-area, the normal structure complete with slides, a handicap-accessible ramp and other climbing pieces, as well as portable learning facilities, such as a balance beam and sidewalk chalk.

“There’s a lot of talk and reflection about what they’re doing when they’re doing it instead of the old-fashioned recess, where kids just run all over doing what they want to do,” said Emerson Hough Site Coordinator Jamie Cranston of the “outdoor learning time” (the preschool program’s guidelines don’t allow it to be called recess anymore). “Kids are still having fun, but it’s those teachable moments.”

Amy Martens can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 426 or via email at amartens@newtondailynews.com.