Rebuilding Johnson Elementary’s playground

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Rebuilding Johnson Elementary’s playground

Gracie Flanary, Staff Writer

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After many years of fundraising and false starts, Andrew Johnson Elementary School is getting a remodeled playground. Construction is set to begin in 2019.

Ashley Hill is the Parent-Teacher Organization president at Johnson Elementary. Among other things, the Parent-Teacher Organization raises money for new projects at the school.

“The new playground at Johnson is going to be a wooden structure with a castle theme like the current playground,” Hill said. “The new Castle will use a composite wood so it will be very durable and not need as much maintenance as the current one.”

Stacy Edwards, the principal of Johnson Elementary for the past seven years, was also involved in making the new playground a reality.

“The new playground was designed based on input from students,” he said. “Some of the key features include a pirate ship, a truck, a climbing wall, racing slides, and an Eagle’s Nest, based on our mascot, the Eagle.”

Fundraising for the new playground has been a five year long process. The PTO had to complete many fundraisers. They also received many donations from local businesses and organizations, such as Eastman Credit Union and the Kingsport Lions Club.

“We are so lucky to have supportive families, faculty, students, and community members to help us with this project,” Hill said. “The generosity from all of these groups have made the dream of a new castle a reality.”

The new playground will be handicap accessible, as well.

Johnson students are not the only kids that will have the excitement of a new playground; it is also open to the public.

“We feel like The Castle Playground is a landmark for Kingsport,” Hill said. “We have visitors from all of the community and even from neighboring communities visiting Johnson’s Castle playground. We look forward to being the playground that families come to enjoy and make memories like so many have done with the current structure.”

Johnson Elementary’s playground is actually the second-most used playground in Kingsport.

“It is centrally located in the city and it was designed with input from kids,” Edwards said. “Kids know what other kids would enjoy most.”

The current playground was first built in 1990, so it is time to update the structure.

“The life expectancy of the current playground was about 20 -25 years,” Edwards said. “Because the playground was well maintained we were able to exceed that. It is necessary to replace to ensure our community continues to have access to a high quality play structure for years to come.”

Students who like the current playground have nothing to worry about.

“It will be similar in style and size, but the decking will use a composite material that is more durable and should last longer,” Edwards said.

There will also be a chance for community members to help with building the playground in March of 2019.

“We are so excited to have our Community Build on March 5 through March 10,” Hill said. “We are hopeful that the parents and community will get involved with all aspects of the build. We hope that families are so happy with the new Castle of Kingsport and will come visit us often.”

The current goal is to open the new playground to students soon after the Community Build event.

Amy Southerland has been teaching math and science at Johnson Elementary for over 20 years. She, too, is excited for the new playground.

“The current wooden playground is too small for our 5th graders to use safely, so they never use it,” she said. “We couldn’t see them all and they would have more injuries if they used it. Also, the old wood has lots of splinters. The wooden castle is not a safe place for the bigger kids to play.”

The students at Johnson have encountered several problems with the old playground.

“It is made of wood and a lot of people get splinters,” Addie Miller said.

Sean Watson, a fifth grade student, agrees that the playground needs an update.

“It is falling apart,” he said. “Last year, a board broke and a kid fell through.”

Many fifth grade students are sad that they will not have a long time to enjoy the new playground.

“Fifth graders won’t get to play on that new playground,” Legion Henderson said.

It is easy to see that the Johnson Elementary community is excited about this new opportunity.

“Kingsport is a wonderful community that gave us the gift of an incredible play structure in 1990,” Edwards said. “Now, we get to do it again for future generations.”

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