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Rieke Elementary School has new equipment designed to meet the needs of older students

CONNECTION PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - Rieke Elementary School students enjoy their new playground moments after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Rieke Elementary School students waited anxiously behind yellow tape on Tuesday, Sept. 19, as teachers and Parent Teacher Association representatives introduced the school's glossy new playground. Once the tape was cut, they flooded onto the newly named Hillsdale Community Playground and raced to the shiny new play structures. Elation filled the air. The ribbon-cutting presentation culminated a year's worth of planning, fundraising and construction. The Rieke PTA raised $115,000 for the playground via the Race for Rieke fundraiser, a PTA donation, a matching campaign courtesy of Hillsdale Community Foundation, community and parent donations, and corporate matching funds courtesy of Nike, Intel and Apple. Volunteers also helped fortify the land under the playground's surface. "We're going to have a bigger celebration for all of our volunteers and donors in the fall. I just want to thank all of them — all of the families who collected cans, kids who saved money, parents who donated, grandparents. It was really a grassroots effort. And it went beyond Rieke. It was a lot of people throughout the Hillsdale community who committed to it," playground committee member Adam Light said. The primary goals of the project were to provide a more enjoyable space for older students and to foster a more inclusive environment for surrounding community members. The new playground features six play structures, some of which connect to each other, including a towering slide fastened to layers of mats that kids can crawl through and areas for climbing, balancing, spinning and hanging.

CONNECTION PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - Students try out a new play structure after the unveiling.

Light says the older playground was less appealing to students from higher grades. "It's a very small playground for the size of the school. The older kids were just getting bored and there were not a lot of play options," Light said. To advertise the area as welcoming to citizens outside

of Rieke's purview, organizers named the playground Hillsdale Community Playground. They also plan to build picnic tables and benches, plant treets and shrubs, and create signs. The playground also sits next to a new turf field. "If you get here early in the morning, there are people walking around the field.

And then after school there's so many people that use the soccer field and so many people that use the softball field. We want to meet their needs and make it a community hub for all these people," Light said. The renovations also included improvements to the drainage system under the playground and the turf field. Previously, water would con

verge into muddy pools. Light is a parent of two Rieke students and says students had spent the weeks leading up to the ribbon-cutting eyeing the construction. Once it was finished, fun commenced. "They were really excited," Light said.

CONNECTION PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - Workers build the Rieke Playground over the course of several weeks leading up to the unveiling.

CONNECTION PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - Rieke Elementary School students wait behind yellow tape during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

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