Nisley Elementary to get $275,000 for playground

Principal Curry Newton got a little choked up when she announced to her staff that Nisley Elementary School has been awarded a $275,000 grant from the Colorado Health Foundation to begin building a new playground for their students.

“It’s absolutely unheard of for us to get this much, and it means big changes for our kids,” Newton said, while explaining the effort that began almost two years ago.

It was one of those weeks, Newton recalled, when she was sure her teachers didn’t have anything else left to give, but they mustered up a little more time to apply for a planning grant from the Colorado Health Foundation.

The first grant was worth $13,500 and allowed the school to hire Learning Landscapes to design a playground that not only was fun, but also educational.

Learning Landscapes is a program at the University of Colorado-Denver that creates playgrounds and parks with healthy initiatives in mind.

That plan for Nisley includes not only newer and safer play equipment, but also outdoor learning areas, shade structures, basketball courts and community gardens. The plan broke construction into three phases to allow for fundraising efforts.

The Colorado Health Foundation liked the new design enough to award the implementation grant that will complete Phase I and part of Phase II this year. Newton said she hopes to begin construction as soon as possible.

“It just gives me chills to think about what it’s going to look like,” Newton said. The teachers responded with cheers and high-fives.

The playground at Nisley, located at 543 28 3/4 Road, is long overdue for a makeover. It has gravel surfaces, chipped concrete and brittle, faded play structures. Lawn irrigation problems have led to a flock of ducks residing in a “duck pond” in the center of the playing field.

“Some of this playground equipment was here when I was a student here,” said 26-year-old teacher Jennifer Strasser.

The total cost of all three phases of the project is $480,000. Newton is hoping the Colorado Health Foundation grant will instill enough confidence in the project to spur local organizations to donate toward the completion of all three phases.

Newton told her staff that she is proud of the efforts they made toward this project. “Every day when you’re feeling empty, just remember that the work you do touches these children forever,” she said.


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