KAILUA-KONA — The old saying “work hard, play hard” can be applied to anyone, especially kids.
But at Kealakehe Elementary School, where nearly 900 students study and play, time on one of the school’s two playground structures is often limited, with classes rotating days they have access to play equipment.
The cramped play space presented an opportunity, as one group of parents saw it, to rally the community to support the school.
They seized the moment by organizing to raise money to build a new play structure at the school.
“Schoolwork’s hard, and it’s their job to go to school,” said Lilliana Robinson, vice president of the school’s parent-teacher organization and a parent of a Kealakehe kindergarten student. “So we want them to have a good break, a good recess when they go out there and let out stress.”
The school has two playground structures, said Lindsay Chambers, media specialist at the Department of Education.
While everyone gets recess, they don’t all have daily time on the play structures. Instead, she said, time on the equipment rotates with teachers’ yard duty.
Robinson said the idea to get new play equipment for the school’s students came at the beginning of the school year, when her kindergartner told her they don’t get to play on the structure every day.
“Everybody enjoys playing on the playground,” she said. “And we learn so many things on the playground, and I thought it was important to bring that to the table.”
With that in mind, she made it her mission to offer Kealakehe Elementary School’s students more opportunities to play.
Through her research, she found Play by Design, which brings together playground designers and building consultants to partner with communities to build play structures for toddlers, preschoolers and schoolchildren.
That’s done through a community-oriented process that starts by asking kids and adults to develop a design and offers assistance with raising funds and recruiting volunteers before the build.
The New York-based company also designed the reconstructed Anuenue Playground in Waimea, which was rebuilt last year after the Friends of the Anuenue Playground met its $400,000 fundraising goal.
Robinson said she thought Play by Design was a great program and an opportunity to bring the community together to build something positive.
“I want to get the community involved into the school more, because it needs some TLC, and it needs love,” she said.
This past week, Robinson said, students have been in their art classes designing their dream playgrounds and what they want to see on their campus.
On Monday, a designer from Play by Design will come to the school and talk to students about their ideas and visions, with a “revealing party” to unveil the new playground design at 6 this evening at the Kealakehe Elementary School cafeteria.
Robinson said they are in the process of raising money for the new playground, and are currently selling “Spirit Cards,” which offer discounts at local businesses.
Those cards are being sold for $10 and are available at the Kealakehe Elementary School office. Robinson said businesses that want to help sell the cards can contact the office for more information on how to do so.
The goal is to raise $150,000, and fundraising efforts will likely continue through the summer and beginning of next school year, she added. The parent-teacher organization, Robinson noted, is a nonprofit.
Chambers said it’s too early to say exactly what funding assistance, if any, the department would be able to provide for the effort, but said the department’s facilities branch is looped in to ensure anything that gets built complies with safety requirements and regulations.
In that regard, she said, she believes everyone’s on the same footing, working toward a common cause.
“Everyone’s talking, which is great,” she said.