June 1, 2024

Hillsboro Elementary School Playground Project

The playground was described as an “ugly water-filled dusty playground.”  When it rained, the area couldn’t be used, and when it was dry, there was a lot of dust.  The school principal said he didn’t like to take a family new to Hillsboro out back on a tour and show them the playground.  He wondered what the parents would think seeing the clean school facilities and then looking out at the rusty merry-go-round and the dirt and mud.

In 2013, the two playground areas surrounding the Hillsboro Elementary School were in bad shape.  The Hillsboro Elementary School Site Council established a playground committee, comprised of parents, to plan fundraisers to pay for sprucing up and making some playground improvements.

Then it rained and the committee saw what it looked like.  The focus quickly went from a project of sprucing up to needing to do something about the surface material.  As the committee gathered more information, the scope of the project continued to evolve as one change led to another change required to remain in compliance with regulations.

This led to the decision that if they were going to raise money for the playgrounds, they needed to do it right.  What started as a project estimated to cost a few thousand dollars turned into a $185,000 project to replace the north playground in its entirety as well as all of the current surfacing on both playgrounds.

Faced with the prospect of needing to raise significantly more than the $8,000 already raised through soup suppers, farmers market meals and a carnival, the committee turned to other possible sources.

The first stop was the Hillsboro Community Foundation.  In October 2014, the playground committee presented the project at a meeting of the HCF Board, hoping to obtain around $5,000 from the Kansas Health Foundation Fund.

After hearing the presentation and seeing the efforts already made toward the project, the HCF Board decided to grant $25,750 through the Marga Ebel Health Fund and the Kansas Health Foundation Fund.  The grant would not only give the committee a great boost toward their goal, but a boost toward increasing the matching grant they could apply for from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

The KDHE grant program would match funds raised locally with state funding.  Applicants who got the grant had to show that they had done significant fundraising on their own.  The HCF grant helped provide momentum to the playground project and kicked off a larger fundraising campaign to raise local funds. 

In May 2015, KDHE awarded a $48,674 matching grant for the playground project.  Other non-matching funds were contributed to the project, mostly from the USD 410 Board of Education capital outlay fund, to reach the final $215,000 total cost.

Work on the playgrounds began immediately afterwards and was completed by the start of the new school year in 2015.  At the dedication ceremony, it was noted that the project had been a “truly community effort” that involved many contributions, both large and small.   

The decision behind the HCF grant illustrates the ongoing importance HCF boards have placed on health and recreation needs in the community over the years, and the role HCF can help play in obtaining matching grants from sources outside of the community