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Niagara Falls fifth-grader petitions board for new playground

A 10-year-old fifth-grader who wants a new playground for his elementary school was the center of attention at Thursday's meeting of the city School Board.

"I have only one more year at Geraldine J. Mann School," A.J. Jocoy of West Rivershore Drive told the board, "and I want to leave there knowing that I have helped to make outside playtime more enjoyable for the kids that are following me."

He gave the board a petition with 422 signatures supporting a new playground for the school at 1330 95th St., pointedly reminding the elected board members, "Not all the signatures are voters, but they have parents that vote."

School Superintendent Cynthia A. Bianco said her administration would take his request under advisement in preparing a program of capital improvements at city schools for the coming year.

"We once had a pretty nice playground to play on during recess and after school while attending the extended day program," the boy explained. "Then Mann went through a phase of capital projects, our playground was moved [about three years ago] and not all the pieces were put back. This left us with a not-so-fun playground. There is very limited stuff for us to play on. Also, the new location is in an area that is very wet and squishy much of the time, especially after a lot of rain."

A.J., who has attended G.J. Mann School since kindergarten, added, "We do appreciate the new slide that was put up after the playground was moved, and it is working out very well. Thank you for that."

He said he recently saw a new playground at Kalfas Magnet School and asked his father how G.J. Mann could get one. "Draw up a petition, get some signatures and present it to the School Board," his father suggested. He said he collected the signatures during the last month or so "with the help of some of my classmates." He added that some of the teachers helped, too.

Before addressing the School Board from the lectern, he introduced himself as A.J. Jocoy, but some board members recognized him as Arthur Jocoy IV, son of Art Jocoy Jr., vice president of the School Board. The vice president did not comment on his son's remarks, instead allowing the boy to savor his time in the spotlight.

The rest of the board meeting was devoted mostly to routine matters of policy, personnel and scheduling.