JP Observer: Student playing field funding down to the wire

Parents and students at the Curley K-8 School on Centre Street, as well as friends and interested community members, have been working very hard since last May to raise money for a new schoolyard. They deserve to succeed, and the larger Jamaica Plain community should come forward in the next few weeks to insure that they do.

The grassroots campaign calls for replacing a 14,000-square-foot, dangerous, ugly and unusable asphalt slab at the public school with a track and field. The price tag is a reasonable $260,000.

After recently receiving an anonymous donation of $50,000, organizers have raised a total of $175,000. March 1 is the deadline for receiving matching funds of up to $10,000, and it’s the campaign’s target date for reaching the full amount. That way the field could be complete by the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year.

The Curley serves almost 900 students ages 3 to 15. The student body is racially diverse (“majority-minority,” as is Boston), with three-quarters of the students coming from low-income families. Two-thirds of students do not have access to a safe park or playing field, according to the campaign’s very informative, attractive website,

The outdoor space as envisioned would provide a safe area during three seasons for physical education, sports and other activities. It would have a two-lane track, seating under trees and synthetic turf for free play.

Not to be outdone by the adults’ efforts, two second graders and their K1 siblings have been selling crafts and asking for donations for the project, too, the website reports. Other children have participated in a video about the need for a new field, taken photographs and written about their dreams.

Plans for the field are Phase II of a schoolyard renovation plan that began in 2008. During Phase I of a master plan for the grounds, parents and students very successfully rejuvenated an orchard, planted diverse vegetation and created performance and adventure play areas.

Parent co-chairs Doug Rand ([email protected]) and Kieran Fitzgibbon ([email protected]) are inviting people to contact them to find out how to help. Donations can also be made at the website.

Jamaica Plain is well-known for its generosity and community spirit. Nothing would demonstrate that better than supporting healthy play and activity for children while renovating an eyesore. As the saying goes: It takes a village to raise a child. In this case, it will take some intensive support from our entire village in the next few weeks to improve the lives of thousands of local children for many years to come. JP can do it.

Sandra Storey was the founding editor and publisher of the Gazette and lives in Jamaica Plain.

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