Belle elementary working to replace playground equipment

Roxie Murphy
Staff Writer

BELLE — Maries R-2 Belle Elementary School is working in conjunction with the Vienna-Bassett Fraternal Order of the Eagles Club No. 4340 and the Belle Fair Board to raise funds for new playground equipment, says Principal Vanessa Feeler.

Feeler said March 1 that the Vienna-Bassett Eagles could apply for as much as $40,000 to replace all three of the play structures on the elementary playgrounds. One of the structures is 30 years-old, a second is 15 years-old and the third and newest structure is 10 years-old.

“The second oldest one broke and it is $2,200 to fix, but the agriculture department at the high school is doing it for $400,” Feeler said. 

The 4x4 plates on the broken playset are about $942 a piece to replace, they need two replaced. It is an additional $200 a plate to ship.

“Even though the second structure is 15 years-old, it is the 10 year-old structure we want to update,” Feeler said.

The newest structure still passed inspection, but Feeler doesn’t like the look and feel of it.

“The pad beneath it is crazy expensive too,” Feeler said.

She estimated the cost of the pad around $14,000. Local organizations are trying to help the school replace the equipment. The Vienna Eagles are applying for a $5,000 grant.

“We did get approved by the Fraternal Order of Eagles for a $5,000 grant  for the Belle Elementary (School) playground,” said Tom Edwards, trustee. “I expect the check by Monday.”

The Belle Fair Board is also planning to donate $5,500 that was produced from the January fundraiser for the school. Feeler said they are waiting on the school to make a decision on equipment and grant awards.

 “That puts us at $10,000,” Feeler said.

 Additionally, Title One elementary teacher Sunshine Shanks is applying for a $5,000 Lowes Home Improvement store grant to go towards the playground.

“We expect to hear more back in May,” Feeler said. “Then we would be at $15,500.”

“Which puts the school between $500 and $1,000 away from replacing one playset. “It is around $16,000 to replace the playset not including the materials.”

Edwards added that he believed the district would still need around $43,000 to replace the remaining equipment, but he hoped the Vienna-Bassett Eagles donation would get the ball rolling.

The playset provider, Little Tikes Commercial - All Inclusive Rec, previously provide the other two playground sets for the district. Playground sets may cost the district up to $60,000. The school is also looking into building their own sets. Chris Mertz, Belle High School’s agriculture and science instructor who offered to fabricate plates to replace the broken ones on the second oldest play set, thinks maybe he could make pieces for a new set and the district could purchase slides to add to it.

“Tony Gieck (transportation director) is looking into if that will pass inspection,” Feeler said.

Feeler said assuming the district does receive grant funds and ordered the new play set, it would take at least six weeks for the new item to arrive.

“Then the school will install it,” Feeler said. “To have the company install it, the price nearly doubles.”

It is a slow process to fix the playset, and apply for grants.

“Hopefully we will have it (the playset) up and going in a week or two,” Feeler said. “We are going to make it nice and pretty and colorful.”

Until then, there are another two sets that will need to be replaced in the near future.

“I am going to have to write some grants this summer,” Feeler said. “One at a time.”

Mertz said his class has finished with the fabrication and the plates have been sent off to be rubber coated.

“We will probably be installing them when they get back,” Mertz said.