2 Aurora elementary schools receive GOCO grants for play area improvements

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AURORA | Two schools in Aurora have received six-figure grants to help them realize their community vision for new playgrounds.

Arrowhead Elementary School in the Cherry Creek School District and Crawford Elementary School in the Aurora School District were each awarded $110,000 grants from the Great Outdoors Colorado to help construct new play areas.

“GOCO’s School Yard Initiative aims to transform school grounds into exciting and inspiring places to play and learn outdoors,” said Erika Meyer, Youth Initiatives program coordinator for GOCO. “The hallmark of (SYI) is the student-led design process, whereby the students set a vision for their school yard and work to turn it into a reality … Crawford Elementary and Arrowhead Elementary both demonstrated dire need for a new playground and their students were the driving force behind their projects.”

Crawford Elementary and its more than 600 students, 88 percent of whom receive free or reduced lunch, will put its grant toward expanding an overcrowded playground that sees more than 200 students at a time use it during the school day. The plan for the new playground, envisioned by students, will include a quarter-mile trail, outdoor classroom area, more swing sets and new structures.

“Our Crawford Elementary student task force has shown incredible leadership and dedication in bringing its vision for our new playground to life,” said Jenny Passchier, principal of Crawford. “I am so proud of our students for their hard work and could not be more excited to see our school transformed with an outdoor play space that supports learning, health and growth.”

“Crawford serves over 600 students and their current playground is too small to accommodate all of those students, nor does it provide a variety of things to do,” Meyer said. “Their new  playground will offer a quarter-mile trail, natural climbing and balancing structures, swings and an outdoor classroom.”

Arrowhead Elementary will use its grant to replace its current playground which is 22-years-old and non compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The plan for the new playground, which was also put together with the help of students, will include new, ADA-compliant equipment, a multi-use area for sports and classroom activities and an outdoor area for school groups to meet.

“Arrowhead Elementary serves 625 students,” Meyer said. “Their current playground is so old that components have been removed and not replaced because the parts are no longer available. Their new playground will offer an outdoor classroom, new playground equipment and a reading nook.

“Both schools and their respective playgrounds are community hubs, providing free, accessible and safe places where students and others in the community can have fun in the outdoors,” she added.

The money for both schools were part of the $7 million worth of grants awarded March 23 by GOCO.