Parents build playground for Academie Lafayette students

Wesley Wilson, an Academie Lafayette parent, is one of about 20 devoted workers building a playground for students at the new school in Hyde Park. Last evening he was working on a large climbing wall.

Just weeks ago the new Academie Lafayette charter school location, at 34th and Cherry, opened to students. That followed months of rehab work by parents of the students who would be attending the school: painting walls, refinishing floors and making other improvements. At the same time, parents have been working to turn an asphalt area behind the school into a large playground for children.

According to Roxana Shaffe, one of the parents working on the playground project, the parents want to build a quality play area as cheaply as possible. One of their strategies is to put various parts of the project out to bid with parents first. That has paid off in spades so far.  Carpenter Wesley Wilson is donating much of his time to oversee construction of part of the playground. Parent Jonathon Kemnitzer of KEM Studio contributed the master design. Other parents have helped with building, spreading mulch and other chores. Shaffe says with all the parental involvement, the first phase of the project has cost less than $14,000.

Mothers of students at the Academie Lafayette painted hopscotch and other games on the pavement so children would have a place to play. Eventually, the master plan for the playground calls for the removal of all asphalt and the installation of a water feature and community garden.

Future plans call for a set of monkey bars, a large slide and a long table where classes can be conducted outdoors. The master plan also calls for removing all the paving and putting in a water feature and community garden. Teachers also suggested a wall of trees to block distracting views of the playground from the classrooms.

Shaffe says the challenge ahead is for the parents to find funding to continue the plan. While much of the work so far has been done by volunteers, some of the future projects require more skilled design or construction. The parents still want to add basketball hoops, a soccer area and tetherball pole. Shaffe estimates the parents will need to raise $50,000 to $75,000 for completion.

The Cherry Street location of Academie Lafayette is the former Longan School. It was among the first of the Kansas City School District’s repurposed schools to be put to a new use. The school is open to students from across Kansas City.

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