By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
This weekend’s Lafayette Elementary Sports Swap – drop off donations/consignment till 3 pm today, shop and “swap” 9 am-3 pm Sunday (flyer here) – is the current fundraiser for a longrunning project that’s suddenly attained new urgency: Upgrading the playground for West Seattle’s most populous public elementary school.
The playground-upgrading project has been under way for years (Lafayette is one of the schools our son attended, and we recall fundraisers up to six years ago!) – but now, there’s a “use it or lose it” component: A $100,000 city Neighborhood Matching Fund grant for Phase 2 (outlined here) that MUST be matched with cash and other contributions by the end of January, or else it goes away.
To get the job done, there’s now a catchy campaign name – Play It Forward – and parent volunteers specifically focused on marketing (including production of the explanatory video you can watch atop this story). We chatted recently with the Lafayette moms who are project co-chairs, to find out why this is a matter of concern beyond even the 530-plus families with students at the school now:
First – the playground itself, where we photographed Deborah Hazlegrove and Holly Grambihler. There’s been an upgrade here and an upgrade here over the years – most notably, the installation of some grass, on what was previously a massive expanse of blacktop – but this is the big one: The “Big Toy” and the area around it. The current one bears a sign noting it was dedicated in 1993 – and it also bears more than ample signs of wear, like the shoring-up of this small slide:
The playground area is also out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), “so special-needs students and neighbors can’t use it,” Deborah says, adding that the new design has “gone through many layers of community involvement,” adding greenery, shade, places to sit, which she notes is more important than ever, since Lafayette’s service area now includes Pigeon Point and part of Delridge, so the playground has become a gathering place/destination that has to be fixed before a district inspection leaves it declared unsafe and unusable. Even the benches have breakage, it’s pointed out to us:
What about the Hiawatha Community Center park playground nearby? they are asked. The answer: That playground is geared more for kids below elementary age.
So back to the task of matching the $100,000 grant: Getting together a new campaign to raise the money has proven interesting: D, “We’ve found many people who have skills – parents not currently working (outside the home) whose energies you can tap into.”
“She conned me into it,” laughs Holly, whose background includes broadcast media – and whose husband has known Deborah since preschool. Her Lafayette student is a second-grader (with a sibling who just started middle school this year at Madison), while Deborah’s is a first-grader, so both have several years to go at Lafayette, and their moms would love to see the playground dream come true before their grade-schoolers move on.
But it’s not easy. “You don’t realize how much this stuff costs!” So they were “amazed” to get the city grant – but, “OK, now we have to do (the rest of) the work.”
January 31st will be here sooner than anyone realizes. And rather than put their fundraising eggs in one big basket, “we’re doing lots of different things” – beyond this weekend’s Sports Swap (which was preceded by the first one last spring) – advice that they garnered from friends who were expert fundraisers.
They also are selling sponsored bricks, plaques, and even boulders – which are expected to appeal to Lafayette alums and their families, to commemorate their involvement with the school, which has a history dating back more than a century: Though the school wasn’t named Lafayette until 1918, there was a school at California/Lander as early as 1893, according to the official Seattle Public Schools history page.
They’ve had morning coffee events at the school in the past few weeks to raise awareness, dubbed “Playground Perks” (here’s coverage on the project website). Also in the works, a parent event including an auction. “It’s unfortunate the district can’t pay for (playground updates),” Holly says, “but playgrounds are important … it’s where the kids are ‘getting their wiggles out’. And it’s open to the community – the gates are open 24/7, and kids love going there.” Deborah says they’re also working with the project architect to make the entrance more “significant,” and obvious – maybe even something with an arbor – so that its summer-usability status is clear to all.
In addition, they’re working on communicating the situation to the entire peninsula, since, with more than 500 students, Lafayette is now connected to so many area families. They hope to talk to more of the local community councils.
Assuming the matching-fund campaign is a success – and the duo makes it clear, failure is not an option – they’re “on track to break ground this summer,” smiles Deborah. They’ve been meeting with the district, regarding the plans and the approval process, and have been told that once they have the money, they can go out to bid. They haven’t picked the exact design for the “Big Toy” yet – “we hope to get input from the kids, to have them vote on it,” Holly notes.
Then once this is built, maybe down the road … a Phase 3, perhaps to improve the planter area outside the kindergarten classrooms (east of the playground itself).
But first: Phase 2. How to help? Shop the Sports Swap tomorrow (Sunday 11/7/2010) at Lafayette (2641 California SW), 9 am-3 pm (official flyer here); check out the Play It Forward website (where you’ll see an easy way to make $ donations), and the Facebook page; or get involved in other ways (detailed here).
And if you’re going to Gathering of Neighbors today (Saturday) – we hear the project will have a presence there too.