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The rusting monkey bars and paint peeling off the swing sets have been replaced with purple and gold slides and a child-size rock climbing wall at Roosevelt Elementary's playground.

Over the past year and a half, the faculty and parents raised more than $40,000 to replace the cramped, deteriorating playground.

"We had no green space whatsoever," said Debbie Rauch, chairwoman of the school's playground committee. "The entire side of our building where children would play was all blacktop. They would go out for phys ed, and they'd come in with scuffed knees or bloody lips."

The Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District converted that blacktop into an extension of the parking lot and put in green space in the area of the new playground. The play area will virtually double, she said.

Unlike the nearly 20-year-old playground, the new one is handicap-accessible, Rauch said.

Rather than asphalt, the ground is covered with soft chips. The metal equipment has been replaced by the chunkier design of modern playgrounds -- and in the school colors, purple and gold.

All playgrounds at the district's eight elementary schools will be replaced in the near future, with similar equipment at each one. Roosevelt, Hamilton, Hoover and Holmes each finished the first phase of its playground installations this year.

School and government officials will help celebrate the dedication of the new Roosevelt playground this afternoon.

At this point, the project is more than half finished, Rauch said. Two-thirds of the new equipment, totaling $40,000, was installed early this summer. The rest, including the swings, will be installed next May.

The remainder of the project will cost an additional $20,000, much of which the group already has in hand, she said.

The school's playground committee raised the money through a series of efforts, including staff donations on dress-down days, a student walkathon and a Tupperware sale, according to Buryl Trumble, a teacher on the committee. A spaghetti dinner one Friday night drew hundreds of people and raised $2,500.

The group also got several thousand dollars from county and state coffers.


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