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Melissa Peebles supervises as daughter, Violet, and Eva Post paint a large caterpillar game on Valier’s Elementary blacktop playground. 

There has been a buzz of activity on the Valier Elementary playground of late and it isn’t all during recess. Parent volunteers have been busy cleaning and upgrading the existing structures to provide more options for recess activities.

The playground project has been in the works for awhile. According to District Clerk, Mary Lundy, when the “big slide” had to be removed some of the teachers, along with former Superintendent, Julie Gaffney, developed a survey to find out what changes the students and staff would like. A Playground Committee was formed prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Funding for the playground has been an ongoing project. Teachers “pay” for casual Fridays by donating a dollar when they wear jeans and the donations join other funds such as Box Tops for Kids rebates, private donations, and an Elementary Activity Fund ($10,000) that has been accumulating over the years. Current playground funds total around $17,000. 

The Valier School Board approved some initial improvements paid for out of the General Fund which included paint and new soccer and volleyball nets. 

Parent volunteers recently joined forces to clean up the blacktop in preparation for painting new games and refreshing the old Four-Square games. 

Private donors, Christine Vermulm and Dave and Shelly Goff, provided new basketball rims. New nets were added, and the backboards and standards were given a new coat of paint by the volunteer team.

 “I grew up in Valier and spent a lot of time shooting hoops at the playground. It is great to see people taking time to spruce things up,” said Vermulm.

The time included two evenings for power washing the blacktop, one day during the teacher work week to put up the soccer and volleyball nets, and two Saturdays for painting the blacktop games and basketball standards. Most of the volunteers were quietly serving and not seeking recognition. They prefer to be referred to as the Playground Committee or PAWSitive Panthers. 

There is still some work to be done on the basketball backboards and the committee would welcome help. Most of the information and organizing is done through the PAWSitive Panthers Facebook page. Patrons are encouraged to join to find more ways they can help with projects.

These initial improvements are just the beginning. The ultimate goal is to replace the existing playground structure. This is a large undertaking and current estimates are close to $54,000 for the structure with additional costs for freight and installation. 

The committee is seeking grant opportunities for some matching funds. If the installation was done locally with donated labor, it would save between $10,000-$15,000.

Individuals can help by donating to Valier Schools noting “playground” with the contribution. Interested parties are also encouraged to join the PAWSitive Panthers to help make a difference in the school community.

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