Assemblyman Schimminger is surrounded by grateful Ken-Ton students, parents, staff and school board members after announcing State Assembly funding for playground improvements at each of the elementary schools in the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District. Pictured with the Assemblyman and several Roosevelt School students are (left to right): school playground committee representatives Mary Ellen Zwierlein (Hoover), Kathy Massey (Roosevelt), Kathy Andolsek (Hamilton), Debra Rauch (Roosevelt), Darlene O’Keeffe (Franklin), Renee Willard (Edison) and Bruce Zeler (Holmes), and Ken-Ton Board of Education Members John Donnelly, Dorothy Blake and Lou Reuter.
Joined by children, parents, faculty, staff and Ken-Ton Board of Education members at Theodore Roosevelt School in Kenmore, Schimminger unveiled a two-year, $60,000 funding commitment to the district and the parent playground committees at each of the eight schools – Edison, Franklin, Hamilton, Holmes, Hoover, Jefferson, Lindbergh and Roosevelt. Schimminger made the announcement on the site for Roosevelt School’s future playground.
"I am pleased to announce that I secured a $30,000 legislative grant through this year’s 2003-04 state budget to provide four Ken-Ton schools with $7,500 each so they can move forward with their playground improvement plans," said Schimminger. "And, I will pursue another $30,000, to be divided equally among the four remaining schools, through the forthcoming 2004-05 state budget we will soon be working on in Albany."
Playground committees have been formed by parents, staff and neighborhood supporters at different schools in the Ken-Ton District over the past several years to address problems at their playgrounds, such as aging equipment, substandard surface areas and the lack of handicapped accessibility at the facilities. As efforts advanced at the schools to either improve or replace their playgrounds, the district subsequently formed a districtwide playground committee to help coordinate the individual committees’ efforts and ensure that all the designs would meet safety and accessibility standards. Some of the committees started earlier and have progressed further with their projects, either in finalizing designs, raising the needed funds, or acquiring equipment and construction materials.
The Assemblyman said that representatives from the different schools have contacted him at varying points over the past two years to seek financial assistance for their projects, but that because of the state’s recent fiscal problems he was not able to secure an ample level of funding to direct toward all the schools. "Since some of the school committees are further along in their planning and fundraising, it seemed to make sense to provide a significant portion of funding this year for schools that could use it now, and then follow up in next year’s budget process," said Schimminger. "It’s my intention that the district and the Ken-Ton Playground Committee work with the school committees and take into account the circumstances of the individual school projects when determining which ones can best use the funds from this year’s initial round of state funding."
"Here at Roosevelt, for example, the former playground was situated in a paved area, not the ideal location for active youngsters to play on apparatus. And while I don’t imagine any Roosevelt mom was sad to see it be dismantled this past the summer to make way for the first phase of a new facility, students and neighborhood children have been left without any play equipment until the new playground goes up. And, I understand that playground projects at several other schools are also nearing the installation phase," noted Schimminger.
"Ensuring that children in our neighborhoods and schools have safe and challenging play environments has long been a priority of mine," explained Schimminger. The lawmaker has provided funding for several other collaborative parent/community/school district playground projects in his Assembly district in recent years. He secured state funds for the Ken-Ton schools more than a decade ago to help the district acquire some of the very same play equipment that has now become outdated or in disrepair and in need of replacement.
"I want to thank and commend all the children, parents and grandparents, faculty and staff, and neighborhood residents who have volunteered their time, energy and talents to help develop the plans for their school’s playground and raise the funds needed to make their dreams a reality," concluded Schimminger. "Many spaghetti dinners have been cooked, served and eaten, and a lot of shoes and sneakers have been worn out on walk-a-thons. Plus, a number of area businesses have stepped up to the plate with donations of cash and merchandise. This is truly an impressive effort that confirms our community’s slogan that Kenmore and Tonawanda are great places to live, work and play. I’m proud to be able to play a part in helping to ensure its success."