JSD117 Provides $50K Match to Washington Elementary Playground Fundraiser

By Benjamin Cox on February 20, 2023 at 5:43am

Jacksonville School District 117 is giving a match to an effort to bring yet more improvements to Washington Elementary School.

Washington’s Dean of Students Tony Williams began recruiting people last Fall to pitch in funds to help bring a new playground to the currently-under-construction rehabilitation of Washington Elementary. When Williams learned the playground wasn’t included in the plans, he told WLDS News last month, that he began seeking funds to have the playground finished by the time the school was finished.

The group is hoping to get more than $20,000 for new equipment. Superintendent Steve Ptacek says once he learned how much the group had raised, he said it was time for the district to do its part for the effort: “When Tony came up and asked me if I’d mind that he would put together a community fundraising project for new playground equipment at Washington, I said ‘Absolutely not. Thank you very much.’ I had no idea he was going to be as successful as he’s been in raising the amount of money he has. Originally, I thought there might be one piece of equipment we would be able to replace or add something new in, but when he is talking about their end raising $30,000-plus – that’s when I thought we would have the opportunity to match those funds and really make a major change on the playground that will have an impact on the kids at Washington, but also in the long term stability of the district. Eventually, at one point in time, we are going to have to replace all of the playgrounds. If you give me an opportunity to do major changes at Washington at 50% off right now, why not take advantage of it? So, I brought to the board for us to match whatever they are going to raise up to $50,000. If they raise that much and we match it, that will be $100,000 towards that playground.”

Ptacek says that while it’s not critically needed at all of the other elementary schools in the district right now, eventually all of them will need to be replaced. Ptacek says that by doing Washington’s playground first and with the help of the fundraising efforts, it will check a box off for the future.

Once the funds are completed, Ptacek said during Wednesday night’s February school board meeting, the district architect will be brought in to create a design and ultimately give the final approval on all of the new equipment placed on the playground.

The Jacksonville Public Schools Foundation serves as the repository for donations to the project. To make a tax-deductible donation, please contact Tony Williams at 217-370-0541 or Jodee Nell at CNB Bank and Trust. Make checks payable to Jacksonville Public Schools Foundation with the memo reading Washington Playground Equipment Fund.