Kids get new playground

A dozen preschool children ran from one slide to another across their school yard at Brown Early Childhood Development Center in Portales, giggling as they went.

Esmeralda Cuevas, 4, threw her hands up into the air as she glided down one of the slides.

"This equipment was sitting on our playground disassembled for months," preschool teacher Paula Terry said. "So once they could play on it, they were very excited."

The $150,000 worth of playground equipment was moved to the school from Cannon Air Force Base in March, but putting it together has been a long process completed two weeks ago.

Alisa Boswell: Portales News-Tribune

Esmeralda Cuevas, 4, front, and Justine Rios, 4, preschoolers from Brown Early Childhood Development Center, play on new equipment at their school. The playground equipment was donated by the Cannon Air Force Base daycare center.

"They (students) talk about it every day," Terry said. "The new has not worn off of it yet. It's been fun to watch them."

The students' new playground equipment was a donation from the CAFB daycare center, which recently had a new facility built with a brand new wooden playground set.

"The old playground equipment had a lot of life left in it, because it had been well cared for and we wanted to give it to someone to enjoy rather than let it be turned into scrap metal," said Denise Van Derwarker, Airmen and Family Services flight chief, who was the one who originally contacted Portales schools Superintendent Randy Fowler and Brown Principal Becky Flen about giving them their old equipment.

Van Derwarker said Cannon personnel members who attend Portales school board meetings had overheard that the Portales preschool needed new playground equipment and had mentioned it to her when she asked for ideas of where the equipment could be put to good use.

"We were about to try to locate grant funding for playground equipment for our pre-k kids, so when Denise contacted us, that sure filled a void and saved us a lot of time," Flen said. "It saved the district and the finance department a lot of money."

Flen said the school district paid $47,000 to have the equipment installed but saved about $150,000 with not having to buy new equipment.

She said the preschool has needed new playground equipment for a long time but didn't have the money.

All the school yard had prior to the new equipment was a small, worn out play gym and a small cabin and toy truck.

The new equipment added two large play structures and three smaller ones to the school yard.

"My first reaction before I got excited was I need to see this but when I got there (to the base) and saw the amazing shape it was in, then I got really excited."

Van Derwarker said most playground equipment has a life expectancy of 20 years and most of her old equipment was only two years old.

"With the funding that's been cut and continues to be cut from education, it was a blessing to find the resource," Flen said. "I hope everyone at Cannon understands that we are so grateful of not just the equipment, but of the schools' relationship with Cannon."

"The base people were wonderful in helping us explore how we could donate it; all the way from our child development staff to our wing leadership were helpful," Van Derwarker said. "We just wanted to help them out and they had good use for it and it would benefit children who could get more good use out of it. "

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