Future funds will pay for more creative, customized elements aimed to inspire and bring ‘magic’ into the play space
By Polly Mikula
Soon after Killington Elementary School students departed for summer break on June 11, excavators showed up. A week later, the community-built wooden playground that had welcomed students to school for over 30 years was gone.
“It’s so sad to see it go,” said Police Chief Whit Montgomery, who had played on the structure when he was a student at the school.
But Principal Mary Guggenberger said that the decades had taken a toll on the old structure and it, unfortunately, no longer met the safety or developmental requirements of a play structure today. A new playground will be built in the field next to the school later this summer.
“Kids’ Kingdom has long been a valued treasure at Killington Elementary School,” Guggenberger said of the old playground. “The project was done more than 30 years ago with some major, and quite costly, repair work done on it about 11 years ago. Today, the design and construction of the Kingdom no longer meet the developmental and safety criteria of all KES students. The structure is deteriorating, and a Band-Aid approach will no longer work on this dated, yet much loved Kids’ Kingdom.”
While Guggenberger knew that the playground was deteriorating, new licensing requirements and a laundry list of concerns issued by the insurance company helped spark urgency. Planning began to design and fund a new play structure months ago.
“It feels fast, but it really has been a long time coming,” said Kimberly Harris, president of Parents and Educators Aligned for Killington Students (PEAKS).
“We didn’t want to take this on… especially during a pandemic, but it had to be done,” she said.
PEAKS held an open meeting for the community via Zoom on Tuesday morning, June 15, to discuss the renovation plans for Kids’ Kingdom.
“New equipment isn’t the same, it has a very different feel… Kids’ Kingdom had a lot of magic around it,” said Harris. “Funds raised from this effort will be dedicated to making the new playground a special, Killington-style experience for our kids,” she added. “I don’t think any of us want to see a cookie-cutter playground that you could find anywhere… we’re asking for community input to see how we can make the new Kids’ Kingdom as special and magical as it can be.”
“Kids’ Kingdom set a high bar,” Guggenberger added. “Since we can’t just replace it, we need to consider the play-based learning environment as a phased approach. We just can’t fund it all at once — and the work can’t all happen all at once anyway,” she said.
The first phase of the PEAKS Kids’ Kingdom Rebuild Initiative was aimed at the purchase of the new playground equipment — about $70,000.
“We’ve received funding from Casella Waste Systems, Killington Resort and the Play it Forward Fund, Rutland Regional Medical Center, Ottauquechee Health Foundation, Boston Children’s Hospital Anesthesia Foundation, and The Karr Group — allowing us to cover the expense of purchasing new state-of-the-art playground equipment,” Sarah Hewitt wrote on the GoFund Me page Kids’ Kingdom [email protected] Elementary School. “As we transition to Phase 2 of our rebuild fundraising initiative, we look to focus on the creative design and greater Killington community representation that has historically made the Kingdom such an extraordinary place.”
The GoFundMe campaign launched June 7 and received over $6,000 in donations in its first two days, according to Missy Karr, a PEAKS member. And as of Tuesday, June 23, it has received 22 donations totaling $10,445 of its $40,000 goal.
“The outpouring of support from the greater Killington community with this initiative has been both inspiring and motivating,” Karr said. “Our committee will continue to work hard through the summer months to push forward with creative design work and ongoing fundraising for the playground.”
“Now we’re entering Phase 2, the ‘design and community’ phase,” said Lorelei Danilchick, a PEAKS member. “In this phase we hope to bring magic to the new Kids’ Kingdom,” she said.
PEAKS is currently brainstorming customized features that they may incorporate into the the new playground, funds permitting.
An embankment slide, similar to the one at Woodstock Elementary School, a mud kitchen, and an outdoor xylophone were some of the creative ideas discussed at the community forum on June 15. Brainstorming continues.
“We’re looking for creative minds, active participation and funding,” said Danilchick. “We welcome all ideas!”
“We’re certainly not playground designers,” said Karr. “This is a grassroots effort, we want more community members to be involved for the project to really gain traction and awareness. The more minds we can put together the better it will be.”