Elementary upgrade

Effort launched to purchase new equipment for Chapman playground

Stephen Tchudi stands on the Chapman Elementary School playground, where he hopes new equipment will replace the few old pieces that have sat on the grounds for decades.

Stephen Tchudi stands on the Chapman Elementary School playground, where he hopes new equipment will replace the few old pieces that have sat on the grounds for decades.

photo by tom gascoyne

Angie Brunemeyer has taught sixth grade at Chapman Elementary School for the past 10 years. Her 5-year-old daughter, Reese, a pre-kindergartner enrolled in the Head Start Program there, recently brought a serious defect in the school’s playground to her mom’s attention.

“After her first day of school she told me, ‘There’s nothing to play with,’” Brunemeyer said.

Reese was referring to the fact there is scant in the way of playground equipment on the school’s campus for the younger students. Brunemeyer went out and photographed the equipment on other elementary school grounds within the Chico Unified School District, shared them with some interested parties, and a fundraising project was born.

Brunemeyer said Chapman has been pretty much neglected by the school district during her 10 years there and that it does not have much of a Parent-Teacher Association, for which she serves as the teacher representative.

“It’s hard getting parents on board,” she said.

The school, which was built in 1953 with 10 class- rooms, has expanded to 26 classrooms that now serve 370 preschool through sixth-grade students representing many ethnic backgrounds, including Hispanic/ Latino (39 percent), Asian (26 percent), Caucasian (22 percent), Native American (4.5 percent) and black (4 percent).

However, 93 percent of the families of Chapman students are considered socio-economically disadvantaged. To help remedy the playground’s meager state, the school has joined forces with the Love Chapmantown Community Coalition and North Valley Community Foundation in an effort to raise $40,000 to purchase equipment for the school’s youngest students.

Stephen Tchudi is the secretary and treasurer for Love Chapmantown. He said the school district doesn’t buy playground equipment; that responsibility normally falls to the PTA.

“The PTA here has not been particularly active,” he said, “though they are looking to ‘womp’ it up for this effort. It’s a economically strapped community, so they are not going to raise tons of money.”

He learned of the situation from Brunemeyer and Laura Manning, a Chapman kindergarten teacher. He then began working with a couple of interns from Chico State and launched the fundraising project.

“We met with Chico Unified people and they said they will contribute the installation cost, which is about a third of the total value,” he said. “It’s an in-kind contribution that will probably approach $13,000 to $15,000 by the time we are through.”

He said teachers have met with officials of the school district as well as representatives from a company out of Redding called NSP3 to try to pick out the best features. The wish list includes swings, slides, climbing tunnels and other equipment that come to a total of $37,895.35. Now all they need is the money to make the purchase.

“We started querying neighborhood businesses about three weeks ago,” Tchudi said. “In addition, it will go through the North Valley Community Foundation, so contributions can be made directly there.”

He said many of the larger chain stores have a formal application process for such fundraising projects and they have submitted proposals with Wells Fargo and Safeway.

“It will take several months before we see the fruit from that effort,” he said. “Our big push is finding locals who are willing to contribute. And that’s been a little difficult. I’m not a mover and shaker in this town, so I don’t know who to ask.”

He said the students and the school deserve the new equipment.

“Ninety-three percent of the kids come from socio-disadvantaged families, but there is a rich racial mix as well,” he said. “It is a really good school and has gotten awards for its programs, but you can see from the place that it hasn’t been at the top of the list for improvements and repairs.”