Cary parents rally community together to fund and build playground at Three Oaks School

Volunteers will build the new playground in April

The 31-year-old playground at Three Oaks Elementary School in Cary will be replaced with a new playground by the Three Oaks PTO in April.

The 31-year-old playground at Three Oaks Elementary School in Cary will be replaced in April 2024 after seven years of fundraising efforts by the Three Oaks Parent Teacher Organization.

“This is way overdue,” Three Oaks PTO Vice President Liz Oppewal said.

The playground was original to the school when it opened in 1993, Oppewal said. No renovations have been done since playground equipment is not in Cary-based School District 26′s budget.

“People were noticing by comparing our playground to Briergate and Deer Path,” she said.

The project’s demolition and installation will be completely handled by volunteering District 26 families. Demolition is scheduled for the weekend of April 5, with plans to install the new equipment the next weekend on April 13. The PTO is hoping some community members or local businesses can help support the build by supplying food, drinks and tools for the volunteers, Oppewal said.

The equipment alone cost $61,000, which took away about two-thirds of the PTO budget, Oppewal said. Three Oaks PTO decided to do a volunteer build to save more than $25,000 on installation costs, she said. Another cost the PTO is looking to cover is removing the old mulch and replacing it with a new layer. The team has a hired contractor to ensure equipment is properly installed and to conduct inspections, Oppewal said.

Oppewal, who has two daughters attending Three Oaks, aims to renovate the other two smaller playgrounds at Three Oaks. She hopes District 26 or a nonprofit organization can step up and cover the costs.

“The district hasn’t set any money aside for playground maintenance and that might change,” she said. “Why is it on the PTO to replace this?”

Three Oaks Principal Kyle Block said he wanted to do whatever he could do to help after meeting with the PTO when he first started his position in August. Oppewal said Block made the playground “a priority.”

“We have a great community of families that not only have great ideas on how to make positive impacts, but also are willing to dedicate their time and effort to make it happen,” Block said. Block plans on helping out with the build in April. He said he’s looking forward to see the reaction of the students once the new playground is ready. “Just to be a fly on a wall when our students get to see the new playground is definitely the part I’m looking forward to the most,” he said.

Many of the District 26 board members said they plan on helping build the playground.

“I’m trying to see if we can get some other type of funding in for you, as well, to cover that other playground,” District 26 Board President Deanna Darling said at a recent school board meeting. “I’m working on it on my end as a personal citizen.”

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