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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Hyde Park School Community Play Yard is ON!!!

By Grace DeGregorio

Last December Hyde Park Living printed an article on efforts to bring the vision of a community play yard at the Hyde Park School to reality. A collaboration between the Hyde Park School Foundation, Hyde Park School PTO and Cincinnati Public Schools, the main thrust at the time was a fundraising campaign with timeline goals to help gauge its progress.

The results of the campaign were gratifying, with goals exceeded within the overall time frame.  This milestone enabled the play yard committee to establish a contract with the general contractor, Playground Equipment Services (Eric Schmidt, owner), which has great experience with Cincinnati Public Schools playgrounds.

Ed Paff, Peter Draugelis, Bob Beattie, Caitlin Hartzler and Hyde Park School principal Jill Sunderman 
The committee has proven to be a committed and effective team: Hyde Park School principal Jill Sunderman, Bob Beattie, Elizabeth Devendorf, Peter Draugelis, Caitlin Hartzler, Dena Hipskind, Kate Loveland, Melissa Rice, Tom and Marisa Rowe and Ed Paff, with Mike Laehr providing publicity support.  Bob, Peter, Caitlin and Ed discussed the exciting next steps in the process now that funding has been secured:  executing the plans and building the play yard!

“The committee consulted with Principal Jill Sunderman and her staff on all play yard equipment and plans.”  Bob shared.  Bob, Caitlin and Ed have been planning the design for about two years, while Bob and Ed have worked on selecting the actual equipment and construction pieces.  Caitlin and Melissa Rice have concentrated on landscaping with designer Elizabeth Devendorf.  

“We wanted to pick low maintenance, but attractive plants, and we wanted to address  the wishes of people who wanted some shade,” says Caitlin, who added, “This was a group approach.  We made decisions to help those who will be maintaining the play yard in the future regarding, for example, an irrigation system.  We wanted the space to be of benefit to the neighborhood all four seasons.”

Demolition of the existing playground began the end of May.  The plans call for green space to extend from the edge of the school’s main entrance, where taller shade trees will be planted. The key element in this area is a multi-purpose two-tiered outdoor classroom.

There will be grass between the gates leading to Observatory Avenue, with re-grading and tall trees added.  A large space will be leveled and dedicated to playing sports - which in the past has been difficult for the students.  

Caitlyn explained, “The transformer box, which cannot be removed, will be camouflaged with a custom wood area and bench.  The north side of the building will be highlighted by small flowering trees which, when school is in session, will be attractive.  The area also will have plants most conducive to attract butterflies and which thrive in a sunny environment.  

“The sports court will have a synthetic foam cushion turf that is all-weather maintenance-free,” described Bob.  “The area can serve as an outdoor gym, with basketball, soccer, volleyball, etc.  We tried to think what do 5-12 year-olds like to play on, and went to actual playgrounds to try them out!” Play equipment from Miracle Recreation Equipment  will be multi-level to accommodate different age groups and include two large decks/towers with slides, climbing elements to get to platforms and horizontal ladders.

Bob continued, “Going into the playground and transition areas there will be mounds to slow down balls.  There was a concern about enclosing the playground and seating area - that will be there, as well as more trash receptacles.”

The result will be a beautifully landscaped, well-irrigated, lush, park-like environment which, Peter observed, “the neighbors will find aesthetically pleasing, with the play yard and the historic school building.” 

With the May demolition, it’s expected the project will take 6-9 weeks to complete in time for school’s re-opening August 15.

But, Bob points out, “This is just the beginning. We’re already thinking about the future - ongoing maintenance (e.g. mulching, mowing) and the addition of a Music Park in the outdoor classroom area.  It’s student-designed, with the prototype done by the kids and given to the PTO.  It will have drums and other instruments.”

According to Peter, Treasurer and Board Member of the Hyde Park School Foundation, “Many were involved with the project as school parents or alums, as well as from the communities of Hyde Park, Oakley and Evanston.  Reflective of the source of funds, the lionshare of the drive was done by the parents, the PTO, alums, school staff and community, with family members, private foundations and CPS all contributing.

“There is a cushion for overruns and a small, but important, amount left for maintenance. But we’re still taking donations.”  

“The kids are ecstatic about the project!” offers Principal Sunderman.  “They can’t wait to come back to school.  There will be more opportunities for learning and a more functional space.”

To celebrate the opening of the play yard, an event is planned for November 3 to include a performance by the school band, special guests and ‘Punkin Chunk.’  The event, open to everyone, serves as a thank you to all contributors.

For details on the actual play yard plans, project updates, further funding needs and donor acknowledgments, please visit

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