The Great Salt Bay Community School parent-teacher organization (PTO) wants to harness community resources to replace the school’s “decrepit” playground.
The organization wants to work with Learning Structures Inc., a New Hampshire company that helps communities “organize, plan and build their own playgrounds,” project coordinator Kristie Houghton said.
A playground for the 18,000-square foot space under consideration typically costs $100,000-$150,000, Houghton said.
“I think we can do it for about $75,000,” Houghton said. She plans to mobilize a large volunteer corps to build the playground in just five days, she said. Learning Structures has experience with similar grassroots efforts.
“They really believe in the community power of building a playground together,” Houghton said. “They really believe in the American tradition of barn-raising.”
“It’s going to look like something that belongs to us, not something from a catalog,” she said.
The question of who would fund the project remains unresolved.
The parent-teacher organization is considering forming a Friends of GSB 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and raising the majority of the project costs with a combination of grants and community donations.
The organization could act as an umbrella organization for all GSB-related fundraising, including the boosters as well as the parent-teacher organization, PTO co-president Angela Russ said.
The fundraising campaign for the playground project will kick off Thurs., March 8 with a performance by comedian Karen Morgan.
The target for the campaign totals $85,000, which includes $10,000 for pre-construction site work.
“We have the energy to do this right now because we really believe in this school and we really believe in this project,” Russ said.
Russ asked the Great Salt Bay School Committee to consider donating $15,000 to support the project.
The plan met with some resistance from the committee.
“Why is the burden of a facility cost going to the PTO?” committee member Jennifer MacDonald said.
MacDonald acknowledged the organization’s dedication and hard work, but said the responsibility for “the structural integrity of our facilities” lies with the school committee.
“Here’s some really talented, wonderful women that are going to start a non-profit,” MacDonald said. “That is a tremendous burden that I don’t think is necessarily the PTO’s burden.”
Committee member Bill Thomas said the parent-teacher organization might not be able to work with Learning Structures if the school committee co-opts the project. The school committee would have to solicit bids for the project, he said.
The parent-teacher organization has the option to apply for grants through the school, which is another type of non-profit, school officials said. If individuals in the community donate to the school, however, the donations would not be tax-deductible.
Jenny Mayher, the other co-president of the parent-teacher organization, said there was a similar non-profit organization more than a decade ago. The organization “languished,” however, for reasons related to changing leadership and then-Union 74’s insistence on making the non-profit district-wide instead of GSB-specific.
Although the meeting left several unresolved questions, the committee expressed admiration for the enthusiasm of the parent-teacher organization.
“I’m really impressed with you guys and what you’ve done,” Thomas said. “If we can do stuff to support you, I think the board is going to be trying to support you.”
Early revenue figures show a $231,000 increase in Damariscotta’s share with decreases of $29,000 and $88,000 for Bremen and Newcastle, respectively.
Bremen, Damariscotta and Newcastle make up the Great Salt Bay Community School District. Each town’s share of the elementary school’s budget depends on enrollment.