Upsala Area Schools (UAS) raises funds so all kids can play
22 Feb 2021
Community, Economic Development, News, Infrastructure, Education
About two years ago, Desiree Bengtson, a first-grade teacher at Upsala Elementary School in Upsala, started to notice the deterioration of the elementary school’s playground. Several pieces were broken or caution tape had been placed around different equipment. The playground was also not friendly to those who are disabled.
“At the time, I had a student in a wheelchair and noticed that the playground wasn’t accessible to all students,” she said.
Bengtson then spoke with the school administration and the Upsala School Board about looking into ways to replace the playground. It was a go-ahead right from the start and as a result, the school has been raising funds. Bengtson estimates it will cost about $150,000 to $200,000 to build a new playground that is handicapped accessible.
“The more pieces you add to the playground, the more it costs. It’s not just the playground itself, but also the preparation work of the ground, getting rid of the pea rock and getting a solid surface,” she said.
At first, Bengtson started spearheading the project on her own. However, it didn’t take long before she realized she could not do it alone. The playground committee was formed, which Bengtson, Anna Wolbeck, Chelsea Fuchs, and Kennedy Echers are currently members of. A community committee was formed, as well, made up of parents of students to get their perspective, as well.
Bengtson said recently they found out that Lions International has awarded the school a $75,000 matching grant for replacing the playground. She and the others are very thankful to Upsala Lions Club Member Charlie Gunderson who applied for the grant.
“I was just ecstatic when I found out. We have a lot of local support from the Upsala Lions Club for our school that we are very appreciative of and not just for the playground,” she said.
At this time, the school has raised about $40,000. Initially, the plan was to raise funds through a variety of events last year. However, the COVID-19 pandemic along with the added restrictions and guidelines made it difficult.
“For the safety of the kids, we didn’t want them out fundraising at the time, so we are now just gearing up,” Bengtson said.