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Play Structures

As Bryant Denk tells the story, in the fall of 1984, a group of parents asked the PTO to look into replacing a splintered sandbox on the playground. While examining the sandbox, the PTO members noticed the granite-like clay beneath the swings and slide, the deteriorating basketball court, etc. and decided a whole new playground was needed. Marilyn Denk was PTO President at the time and she convinced her husband Bryant to Co-Chair the first Playspace Committee with Brad McConky.

Over the next year, the committee researched and visited many playgrounds in MA, NY, VT, and NH. A special on NBC-TV’s “Evening Magazine” and articles in Parents Magazine, Women’s Day, and National Geographic’s World led to the choice of architect Robert Leathers who had built over 250 children’s playgrounds. Mr. Leathers came to Hanover for a Design Day, a chance to see Ray students’ design ideas and to hear their suggestions for a new playground.

Using the students’ ideas, Leathers designed a wooden castle structure with three turrets, a rubber bridge to bounce on, and single, double, and corkscrew slides. Once the design was completed and approved, it was time to raise the money to make the design a reality.

By September, the School Board charged a new Playspace Committee to “study the current needs of the Ray School Playground and to bring a recommendation for renovation to the Board by January. School Board member Becky Torrey agreed to chair the new committee. Under her leadership, the Playspace II Committee met 14 times between September and January and then made the following recommendation to the School Board: “Based on the substandard condition of Playspace, the existing structure should be dismantled and removed. Playground Structures of Speonk, NY should be hired to design and oversee the construction of a new prefabricated playground which should be built no later than the Spring of 1997.”

The company, Playground Structures incorporated the design idea of the popular turrets that had been a much loved part of the Playspace I design. Once again, fundraising began for the estimated $68,900 needed for the new playground. PTO President Randi Hallarman and parents Heidi Eldred and Carolyn Mertz headed up the fundraising. The School Board gave $10,000 and a special warrant at Town Meeting in May was approved by the voters to add another $10,000 to the project. Helping with the warrant effort was Playground Committee member Willy Black, then Chair of the Hanover Board of Selectmen and former Ray School teacher and member of the Playspace I Committee.

In the summer of 1997, parents of a Ray School student arranged a matching grant from Chase to build a Little Playspace for younger students in the front of the school closest to the K-l pod.

More recently, in the summer of 2006, a group of parents and teachers met to address the issues of accessibility and integration on Playspace. At about the same time, Partners in Health, with financial support from the Hood Center for Families, made grants available to schools interested in adapting or redesigning their playgrounds so all children could play together. The Ray School School received a $10,000 Partners in Health grant which was used to pave walkways into and out of both playgrounds and to purchase an adapted swing, a set of sand diggers, chin-up bars, a multi height basketball hoop structure, and a picnic table that allows wheelchair accessibility.

Phase II of the project involved raising almost $60,000 to add a ramped structure to the back of Big Playspace that would be accessible for children in wheelchairs and would allow for more integrated play for all students. A generous donation from the Brie Foundation and a PTO grant helped kick off the fundraising efforts for Phase II of the Universal Playspace project. The Universal Playspace Committee hired Miracle Recreation and Equipment Company to design and install a new ramped structure that complimented Big Playspace and looked and felt like a “tree house”.

The Grand Opening of the Universal Playspace took place on September 28, 2007. That night, organizers were fearful that rain would postpone the ribbon cutting. But just before the ceremony was to begin, the rain stopped and a huge double rainbow appeared, framing the new Universal Playspace! Organizers saw the rainbow as a positive endorsement of all their efforts and a grand start to our new integrated playground.

image of the Valley News article of the new playspace
photo of the playspace being built
playspace being built
image of the playspace being built
image of the playspace being built
image of the completed playspace
image of the students around the playspace structure
image of the thank you for the playspace donors