Montrose County officials and Oak Grove Elementary School

Montrose County officials and Oak Grove Elementary School staff celebrate the opening of a new playground at the school with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday. Pictured from left: Montrose County Deputy Manager Jon Waschbusch, Commissioner Roger Rash, OGES Principal Dana Carpenter and Commissioners Sue Hansen and Keith Caddy.

Oak Grove Elementary School’s new playground won’t just be beneficial for OGES students, but for anyone living near the school on Spring Creek Mesa, said Principal Dana Carpenter.

The community was able to celebrate the brand-new play area at Oak Grove on a sunny Thursday afternoon. OGES hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Montrose County officials, school district staff and elementary teachers and students.

“This (playground) isn’t just for the school but the whole community,” Carpenter said. “Our neighbors use this playground as a park; it’s the closest thing to a park up here.”

This new playground came to be through a Great Outdoors Colorado grant. Back in March, Oak Grove, in a partnership with Montrose County, received a $110,000 School Yard Initiative grant through GOCO to help go toward the playground.

“The credit really goes to everybody at the school: the parents, grandparents and students. … The county was just able to come in and be the fiscal agent applicant to make the grant happen,” said Montrose County Deputy Manager Jon Waschbusch, who worked with Carpenter and her staff to submit the GOCO application.

“It’s really nice to have these kinds of partnerships and what a wonderful playground it produced.”

Carpenter said without the county’s assistance then the playground wouldn’t have come to be.

The funds helped a playground area that had equipment dating back some 30 years ago.

Previously, Oak Grove Elementary School’s play area equipment had broken features as well as those that are inaccessible for some students, Carpenter said.

The Oak Grove principal said the kids helped fix those issues by creating the playground with inclusivity in mind. Some of the students showed support of that idea by wearing T-shirts that said, “Kindness matters,” added Carpenter.

“That’s what we’re trying to emphasize here at the playground,” she said. “Because this is where they spend so much time practicing their social skills and learning to problem-solve with their peers.”

The school used its SYI grant, awarded to Montrose County, to replace its old playground with a new, accessible play area and outdoor learning space, welcoming children of all abilities.

Additionally, with proposed new features, the play area will be educational.

Carpenter said the GOCO grant is an achievement for the work her students have done.

Students were tasked with presenting ideas for the school’s new playground through a problem-based learning course. Each grade level created some solutions to make the playground safer and more accessible for all students.

“It’s been a long wait but the kids were very patient,” Carpenter said. “They started the fundraising project two years ago.”

She added the community support to aid in the funding of the playground was “incredible.”

“It’s really nice to know that the community will (help) kids and schools,” Carpenter said.

Andrew Kiser is the Montrose Daily Press’ sports/business writer. Follow him on Twitter @andrew_kpress.

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