Shortly after school started in September, Fairfax County notified Centre Ridge Elementary principal Joyce Dantzler that the school's playground is due for replacement.
The news spurred Centre Ridge to begin a massive fund-raising effort to try to raise its portion of what's needed to buy new equipment, and the campaign will continue into spring.
"I started delivering letters — telling of the need and asking for contributions — to the neighborhood homes and local businesses, at the end of September," said playground-fund committee chairman Cathy Greer. "It's a community playground. Except for school hours, it's available for everybody to use."
The playground currently consists of a small platform/slide for kindergartners, plus a similar area for all the other children, as well as monkey bars and rings. However, it's Centre Ridge's original playground, and the school has simply outgrown it.
When Centre Ridge opened in fall 1990, it had less than 500 students. The school population is now a whopping 1,045 students, and the old playground isn't large enough to accommodate them all. Said Greer: "We have more than doubled in size and, unfortunately, the playground has not."
The whole thing will be removed and replaced, and the county is contributing about $65,000 toward the project — $50,000 for equipment and $12,000-$15,000 for mulch and grading. Based on what Bull Run and Virginia Run elementaries paid for their playgrounds — $100,000 — that leaves Centre Ridge with about $35,000 to raise on its own.
"We'd like to have a set of swings and a larger play area," explained Greer. "But exactly how much, what type and the brand of equipment depends on the competitive bid accepted by the county."
However, what's hoped for, she said, are six play-platforms, connected by combinations of monkey bars, clatter bridges, rings, archways and a trapeze challenge ladder. Also on the wish list are six slides and a set of eight swings, placed safely behind the platform areas.
The school will continue fund-raising until May and will then turn over the money to the county so the project can go out to bid this summer. The goal is to have the new playground installed by the start of school in September — or as close as possible.
Some of the local businesses have responded to Centre Ridge's plea for help, and Greer's seven-member playground committee of PTA members and teachers is delighted.
On Jan. 30, the McDonald's on Centreville Road let teachers, parents and principal Dantzler help wait on customers there and donated 10 percent of the proceeds made between 5-8 p.m. The school made more than $500 that night, plus $190 more in tips given to the school's workers. McDonald's also plans to do the same thing again, April 24.
"Centreville United Methodist Church has also given us a large donation," said Greer. "And Red Rocks Cafe and Glory Days Grill each donated gift certificates [as prizes] were given in a drawing to students who'd collected donations."
Beginning next Wednesday, Feb. 27 — and continuing every Wednesday through the end of the school year — the Newgate Domino's Pizza will give the school $1 per order if customers mention Centre Ridge Elementary, on the phone, when placing their pizza orders. Domino's number is 703-830-9000, and customers do not have to be Centre Ridge parents.
First Washington Bank, the management company for the Marketplace at Centre Ridge Shopping Center (where the Sears Hardware is), has also agreed to lend a hand. For every sales receipt dropped off at the school for purchases made at any of that center's businesses during March and April, First Washington will contribute $2 to the playground fund.
The school also has two fund-raising basketball games on tap. The Centre Ridge Elementary staff will take on the Centreville Elementary staff, March 1, at 7 p.m. at Chantilly High. Centre Ridge will then play against Bull Run's staff, April 5, but the time and place have yet to be determined.
So far, Centre Ridge has raised about $9,300 and still has a long way to go. Still, the playground committee remains optimistic — and grateful for those who've offered to help.
Said Greer: "I am thankful, in the current economic climate, that parents, the community and local businesses are coming together to try to make this playground a reality." Anyone wanting to help in any way may call her at the school, 703-227-2600, and leave a message.