New playground opens at Lent Elementary School

Look at how all of the volunteers’ work paid off, as they finish a new playground at Lent Elementary School …

Many volunteers work to finish the playground behind this well-used outer East Portland elementary school.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Several of a group of about 20 volunteers said they were happy to be finishing the new playground at Lent Elementary School under sunny skies, on October 22, and avowed they’d have been there working, even if it had been raining.

This is one of the few mid-County schools operated by Portland Public Schools.

“We have been working on building this playground for the last month or two,” commented project manager Brian D’Agostine, who is also a parent of three students at the school.

Lent School parent, and project manager, Brian D’Agostine digs into a mountain of bark chips, helping to finish the playground.

“This is the final push, getting all the barkdust spread out, so the kids can finally have their playground back,” D’Agostine told East Portland News while taking a brief break from shoveling the wooden chips.

Colorful play structures replace a battered swing set, and a rotting, dilapidated wooden “fort”, at a school that serves hundreds of students in this diverse neighborhood.

Many volunteers pitch in to complete the playground.

The project has actually been five years in the making, D’Agostine said. “This isn’t a wealthy neighborhood, so it’s been difficult to raise funds. But then we were encouraged last year to apply for a Portland Development Commission (PDC) Community Livability Grant for the Lents Urban Renewal area.”

The PDC awarded them a $125,000, he said. “What you see out here is the first phase, involving about 60% of those funds; the remainder will be used to tear out some asphalt, and continue developing this play area into a natural play-scape, with rocks, logs, and fun stuff for kids,” explained D’Agostine.

School Counselor Randee Startin-Hall pitches in on the playground, along Vice-Principal Tony Bertrand.

One of the volunteers was Lent School Vice-Principal Tony Bertrand, who was all smiles as the playground was being completed. “This is meaningful to me, because our students deserve the same access to playground facilities as students in other schools.

“In addition to supporting our kids academically, we need to make sure that we are supporting their emotional happiness at the same time,” added Bertrand. “Research shows that students who are actively engaged in school are able to achieve higher levels of academic success – and good, creative playtime is part of this.”

While thr parents work to complete the play area, some of their kids “test play” a structure.

Bertrand asked us to thank the school’s Principal Terri Sing, who championed the project, and the parents who were involved: “Without the PTA dads and moms who helped raise funds, and were here on the weekends in sunshine and rain, this project would have remained merely a dream.”

Lent School parent volunteer Sody Fearn pitches in, along with her first-grade daughter Nyah.

Dodging volunteers pushing wheelbarrows to spread wood chips in the play area, parent volunteer Sody Fearn commented, “We’re here because we are the community, and want to help Lent Elementary School grow to its best potential.”

> On our Front Page: Volunteers Elizabeth Draper and Ani Draper dig in to help finish the playground.

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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