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More play on the way

Two schools in Berkeley County are expected to get new playground equipment in the coming weeks

August 31, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Berkeley County's new Spring Mills Primary School opened last week without a playground for students, but officials say an outdoor recreation area for the campus still is in the works.

Two "major" pieces of playground equipment are expected to be placed on the grounds of the new school this fall, possibly by mid-October, according to Berkeley County Schools spokeswoman Leah Daniel.

In the meantime, teachers at the school have bags of equipment to take outside so students can play, Daniel said.

School officials are waiting until the recently landscaped ground around the school settles before installing the equipment, according to Daniel.

Fundraisers for additional equipment at the northern Berkeley County school for kindergarten, first- and second-grade students also are being planned, according to school officials.

While the playground at Spring Mills has yet to take shape, Berkeley County Schools on Tuesday separately announced that the playground at Mill Creek Intermediate School would be closed beginning today for the installation of new equipment and refurbishment of what already is in place.

The work is scheduled to be done by Sept. 12 and a celebration is planned for Sept. 15. The school hopes to recruit volunteers to help spread mulch for the project on Sept. 10, Daniel said.

The Bunker Hill, W.Va., school was awarded a $48,630 state grant in June to improve its playground as part of a statewide initiative to combat childhood obesity.

Mill Creek was one of 11 elementary schools statewide to receive a portion of $527,000 that was awarded as part of a coordinated effort by the Department of Education, Department Health and Human Resources and the Bureau for Public Health.

A double glider zipline, rock climbing wall and an obstacle course are among the new playground installations at Mill Creek, according to Daniel.

Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny P. Arvon said Wednesday that the school district "has always been a leader" in providing physical education classes in elementary schools, but added more could be done to increase the focus on wellness, diet and fitness.

"We do a lot of this already, but we have to continue to build those good habits," Arvon said.

After school, parents also need to be a reliable "partner" with efforts to tackle the childhood obesity problem, Arvon said.

Studies show a healthy mind and a healthy body work "hand-in-hand" and that healthy students learn at a better rate, Arvon said.  

Given increased enrollment, providing adequate space for indoor recreation actually is more of a challenge, particularly at the district's older school buildings, according to Arvon.

"When the weather is nice, it's not an issue," Arvon said.

Gymnasiums have been built separate from cafeterias in Berkeley County's newest schools, but some of the older buildings have multi-use spaces and converting them from one use to another is time-consuming, according to Arvon.

While portable, trailer-like buildings are being used to provide additional classrooms in response to enrollment growth at older buildings, Arvon said they also indicate "core" areas of the school, such as the cafeteria, are more crowded. The core areas of the county's new schools were designed to accommodate enrollment growth, Arvon said.

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