Parents, officials came up big in playground effort

There is no shortage of victims of the economic state of affairs in New Jersey schools. With the increasing reliance on property taxes, school boards across the state have had to cut staff and programs and eliminate wish lists, all the while raising local taxes to keep up with rising costs. Things have at times been particularly bleak for the Spotswood Board of Education, which has faced repeated budget defeats and resulting cuts ordered by the Borough Council.

But some good news has been delivered to the board and to a group of volunteer parents. A school playground that has been cut from the budget twice over will soon become a reality, thanks to a unique state grant and the donations of many families and businesses. The playground will be built at Schoenly School, which houses the borough’s students in pre-kindergarten through first grade.

Schoenly lost its playground three years ago when the building was expanded, and since that time funding allocated for the equipment and labor has been cut from the annual budget. The line item is considered a nonessential expense, though most parents have probably been quite surprised to learn there was no playground at their 5-year-old’s new school.

The board will build the playground with a $40,000 state grant that came courtesy of Assemblymen Patrick J. Diegnan and Peter J. Barnes Jr. (both D-18), with the help of Borough Councilman Thomas Barlow, according to school officials. Kids Play, a group of parents dedicated to making the playground a reality, has also raised $10,000, and more fundraisers are planned.

With the playground construction expected to commence in early April, the community owes a debt of gratitude to those officials and parents who helped make this happen for the borough’s children.