‘A magical place for kids.’ Lexington elementary to get new playground

Students erupted into cheers Friday at Lexington’s Ashland Elementary School when their principal Lisa Smith announced that an $85,000 grant will help turn a bland, 20-year-old playground into what she describes a “magical place for kids.”

“I was really excited because I’ve been going to Ashland since kindergarten. I’ve been waiting for a new playground for a long time and I’m so happy that we are getting one next year,” fourth-grader Sofia Sweazy said.

New equipment such as climbers and slides, an assortment of musical instruments that students can play outside, a chalkboard and other outside learning spaces, picnic tables and games will likely be part of the new playground, Smith said in an interview.

Smith told the Herald-Leader that the grant is possible through a partnership from KaBOOM!, a national non-profit dedicated to building or improving playgrounds, the beverage business Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and A&W Restaurants.

The school’s PTA, neighborhood associations, and community and school fundraisers raised $40,000 more during the past three years.

The PTA initiated obtaining the grant.

“We decided to make a concerted effort to get (the playground) finished in time” for the 2017-18 school year, Jordan Phemister, a member of the PTA’s playground committee, said in a news release. Another member of the PTA, new Fayette County Public Schools board member Stephanie Spires, was instrumental in getting the grant, Smith said.

The playground is expected to cost about $120,000. The next step will occur at the school on April 20, when students and families will meet to come up with ideas, Smith said. Students will design their ideal playground, she said.

The playground is tentatively expected to be built on June 23, when school officials are hoping to draw 200 volunteers. About 30 volunteers each will be needed on June 21 and 22 to prepare the playground area, Smith said.

The new playground at Ashland Elementary, which is between East Main Street and Winchester Road, will be built in a shaded area behind the building.

“We are an arts-focused school,” Smith said, so children will be creating murals for the outside walls.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears