La Vista West Elementary hopes to celebrate its 50th birthday with a pretty big gift—one that will serve the school, its current students and students for years to come.
In honor of the school turning 50 this year, students, staff, Parent Teacher Organization members and Principal Lisa Wood have kicked fundraising into high gear for a new playground for the elementary building. The new play space would not replace the current playground but would instead supplement it, offering students two areas in which to play.
“We have a lot of students playing at the same time of day, and we’d like them to be able to spread out more and maybe group more by age,” Wood said. “With a second space, we could accommodate more children, spread out and have fun.”
This year, classes alternate from week to week, spending one week of recess on the playground and the next playing with balls or hula hoops in the grassy area where the school hopes to put its new playground in the fall.
To attempt to ensure that a new playground will be paid for in full by the time the next school year begins, Wood said this year has featured a variety of creative ways to try to finance a second play area for students.
The school is currently doing a program called Pennies for Playgrounds, where students can bring in loose change and drop it into one of four possible boxes. Depending on which box ends up with the most money when the contest ends in mid-February, students might be able to see their music teacher taped to a wall, witness their P.E. teacher swallow a minnow, have superhero-costumed homeroom teachers or convince Wood to dye her hair (color to be determined).
While collecting spare change may not seem like it would bring in much, many of the school’s fundraising efforts have been focused on the idea that every little bit counts.
In March, all 360 students at La Vista West will be encouraged to bring 50 cents to donate to the playground as a 50th birthday gift to the school. Throughout the year so far, the PTO has sold popcorn for 50 cents a bag two Friday afternoons a month, and, in February, they will begin selling scented pencils for $1. The school’s student council also sold suckers and donated the money to the playground fund.
“The parents and kids are working hard, and we’re trying to be creative,” Wood said.
In addition to the aid provided by their own PTO, other elementary PTOs in the school district have donated to the cause, offering up $50 donations for the school’s 50th birthday.
The school has received other donations as well.
One parent donated two family four-packs to the Fresh Beat Band concert that took place in January at the Ralston Arena, and the school sold raffle tickets for the prizes, with money going to the playground fund.
The school received a $1,500 grant from the Walmart Neighborhood Market store that opened in La Vista in November.
And La Vista West has participated in several “family food nights” throughout the year, partnering with Chick-fil-A, Blimpie, Panda Express, Buffalo Wild Wings, Freddy’s and Texas Roadhouse. The school was able to take home a percentage of the night’s sales from these restaurants on the designated nights.
“I really appreciate the support of the community and businesses,” Wood said. “I feel the students deserve the opportunity for a second play area.”
Though fundraising for the new play space didn’t kick off until this year, the idea has been in the air for a while.
“We were looking at it and talking about it for the last couple of years,” Wood said. “The timing just seemed right this year with our big birthday.”
The school and its PTO began promoting and fundraising for the project in August 2013, and Wood aims to have the funds completely raised and the new playground installed by August 2014.
“It’s a lofty goal to raise that much money in a year,” she said. “The PTO has done a great job of doing a big task in a short time.”
The school has currently raised $10,000 of the $25,000 needed for the project. The first installment of payments has been made, with the second due this spring and the final payment due in the summer.
To raise those last $15,000, the school has a variety of opportunities for parents and other community members to chip in.
The school will have a fundraiser at the Village Inn on 72nd Street and Giles Road on Feb. 24 from 5 to 8 p.m. There will be family food nights at the Runza at 12149 McDermott Plaza on March 4 and at the Blimpie on 84th Street and Giles Road on April 1.
Students are also selling Eileen’s Cookies cookie dough as a fundraiser between now and Feb. 21.
“People can call the school to order cookie dough if no one comes knocking on their door to sell to them,” Wood said. She also encouraged those interested in donating to call either herself or a member of the PTO to get more information on how to be the most helpful to the project.