Board approves; school leaders finalize plans for $84K playground improvements

The project is made possible by a grant from the Mississippi County SB 40 Board as well as the CDC Healthy Schools Grant, in addition to local funding.
On the upper elementary playground, a large inclusive playplace will be installed just to the west of Pod E. This structure will have inclusive features, including a ramp, climbers, slides, tunnels, shaded sections, a tilted rock challenge wall, and more. It will also feature educational panels on topics like the braille alphabet, “Simon says,” clocks, a store front, and safety.
Also on the upper playground will be a large obstacle course featuring a balance beam, parallel bars, a worm climber, vertical chain net, and more. These items would be available to both elementary and middle school students.
On the lower elementary playground, several playables will be added, including seesaws, a “hoopla” climber, spinners, and rainbow music makers. Two large awnings will be added, providing some much needed shaded areas on the lower elementary playground.

The lower playground will also receive an obstacle course, complete with a small climbing wall, stepping stones, a “hoop alley,” and fun wheels.
“I am looking forward to the kids seeing the new equipment for the first time,” says Amy Brown, Special Programs Director, who has spearheaded the project. “Some of our playground equipment has been in use since before I was in school at WEH. Our playgrounds are long overdue for an update and we are overjoyed to have the opportunity to do so.”
Upon learning about the SB40 grant in December 2020 from board members, she began working with Hearnes Elementary administrators and others to formulate a plan.
The team surveyed teachers, discussed playground designs, and consulted with All-Inclusive Recreation of Farmington. They also worked with Lead Nurse Julie Burke to secure funding through the CDC Healthy Schools Grant.
Bobby McKenzie, Director of Maintenance & Transportation, was also brought in to discuss installation once the equipment is delivered in mid-April. McKenzie’s crew will provide all the labor, which reduces the overall project cost.
At the January meeting, the Charleston R-I School Board reviewed initial plans and gave approval to pursue the grant opportunity. The SB40 grant was officially awarded in early February, and final approval for the equipment purchase was given by the Board of Education during the February meeting.
In total, the project will cost an estimated $84,573.65, of which $72,000.00 will come from the Mississippi County SB40 Board, $5,000.00 from the CDC Healthy Schools Grant, $3,373.65 from Cares Act, and approximately $4,200.00 in labor costs covered by district funds.
“It has been a privilege to work on a project that will become a lasting part of this school district and be utilized by students of all abilities, now and for many years to come,” said Brown.