Sandwich Every day after school in September 2021 Kindergarten Olivia Buddy came home from Forestdale School crying.
“She could see the stadium but she couldn’t play in it,” said Olivia’s mother, Kelly Buddy. “Instead, they were playing with some bouncy balls and chalk on the gravel and black roof in the front parking lot loop.”
After speaking with her son, Nicholas, who had just finished third grade at Oak Ridge School, Kelly Boddy learned that the elementary school playground for grades three through six was also a mess.
“Every time something breaks at Oak Ridge, they kind of cut it and cover it up and it just keeps shrinking,” she said. “They don’t fix it, they just remove the problem.”
Parents create a Playground project
The state of school playgrounds worked its way through patriarchal social circles, motivating Boddy and three other parents Angela Cleida, Antonia Cilitro, and Ashley Bolger to form the Playground Project.
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Members of the group met sporadically in coffee shops throughout the fall, worked to speak with school officials about the state’s Forestdale and Oak Ridge playgrounds and to raise funds for repairs. The group also focused on the town’s owned Sandwich Adventure Field, the only public playground in Sandwich.
“We decided it was our duty to make it work,” Kelly Boddy said. “We all came together to get the city to help out on the school grounds – the goal was to work as a team and make a difference.”
The group pays to get paid in Town Meeting
As they began planning mass emails and forming a petition for parental signatures, the group was told of capital improvement plans that voters would be asked to approve at the city’s annual May 2 meeting.
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Section 15, included in the 2022 memo, specifically asked residents to agree to a major $13 million proposal to exclude a 2 1/2-debt offer for improvement projects for school buildings, land, playgrounds and public infrastructure such as Sandwich High School, Oak Ridge School and Forestdale School And the city’s human services building. Cilitru said about $465,000 of the $13 million will go to school playgrounds.
Group members redoubled their efforts on Article 15, encouraging parents to come to the city’s annual meeting and vote. For Cittero, who has three children who will eventually go through the school system, there was a lot at stake.
“Except for the stadiums, which were in poor or no condition, the schools are crumbling,” she said. “There are major improvements that need to happen for schools, so it was easy to be late and rally parents and other community members around that.”
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Debt exclusion passes, but stadium projects stall
When the period of debt exclusion passed, the members of the Playground Project were delighted. What was disheartening, Boddy said, was that not much had been done since then.
“They told us the goal is to have it done by the spring of 2023, but we’d like something to happen right now,” she said.
Pamela Gold, the superintendent of Sandwich Schools, confirmed that $13 million will go to school repairs, with nearly $465,000 going to Forestdale and Oak Ridge playgrounds.
Gould said there is also $80,000 from ESSER, also known as elementary and secondary school emergency relief funds, earmarked for pre-work on the field, she said.
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“Currently, the town is already going through the process of securing approved funding,” Gould said in an email. “We don’t have the money on hand yet.”
Although school officials received an architectural proposal from Gale Associates, an engineering consultancy, in June, Gould said there was a backlog of supplies and nothing could be ordered until funding was available. She is confident that the stadiums will be ready by the spring of 2023.
Don Digiacomo, chair of the school committee, agreed and said the stadiums are in the first batch of capital improvement projects to be undertaken. He said that bidding for construction is another factor that may delay work.
“I wish I could tell everyone the exact timeframe for this, but realistically it won’t happen this summer,” Digiacomo said. “The money will not be made available in time. The designs will not be implemented in time.”
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Silitro is sure the school officials have the best intentions, but he insists they need to act now.
“If we want a stadium in March, we will probably need to order (supplies) by December, which means we need a design that has been flattened and budgeted by the fall to make sure we have the money,” she said. “We need to have discussions now so that everything is fully signed off.”
Clyda said that members of the Playground Project were under the impression that they would be part of a playground committee set up by school officials.
“Nothing has really started,” she said. “We can’t wait to get this started.” “We will not let the whole summer pass without beginning.”
Gold said there were no plans to set up a stadium commission. Forestdale manager Chris Dentino is putting together a kit that will weigh on stadium design. A timetable for the project will also be posted on the Sandwich Town website.
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Dintino did not return calls and emails from the Times.
For Silitro, she hopes school officials understand that group members are willing to volunteer whatever is needed to move the project forward.
“We’re here not to point fingers,” she said. “We’re here to help.” We want to be part of the solution.
Fundraising efforts underway for Adventure Playground
Members of the Playground Project set out to raise funds for Sandwich Adventure Playground.
Cilitru said the site on Quaker Meeting House Road is in poor condition. She said that in some places the stadium structure is fixed with adhesive tape.
Since Adventure Playground is operated by the Department of Entertainment, and is not connected to a school, the site will not benefit from the capital improvement funds approved at Town Meeting.
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With that in mind, members of the Playground Project held a “Sip and Slide: Silent Auction & Cocktail Party” fundraiser at the Sagamore Inn restaurant in May, raising $15,000 for improvements or equipment replacement. The Women’s Sandwich Club also contributed $3,000, creating a nest egg worth $18,000.
“It (the adventure playground) is 20 years old and it will need to be replaced so we are looking at our options for that,” said Clyda. “It’s not wheelchair accessible and it’s not up to the code.”
If the group raises enough to replace Adventure Playground, they won’t stop there, Silitro said. The group has gone as far as planning another silent auction, which will take place Thursday, May 25, 2023 at the Canalside Suite at Sagamore Inn.
“We will not stop. We will continue to work until all the pitches are replaced in the sandwich,” she said. “We will keep the momentum going.”