Ribbon cut on new inclusive playground at Pivik Elementary

October 4, 2018
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Pivik Principal Kristen Gestrich talks about the importance of the new space and what it will mean to all students.

An all-inclusive playground designed to allow special needs students and those with physical or sensory issues to play outside with their other peers was built in one day at Pivik Elementary in Plum.

At least 200 volunteers from the community, Duquesne Light and Habitat for Humanity’s Allegheny Valley affiliate came together Sept. 28 to create the new student play area.

District, county and state officials cut the ribbon that afternoon.

Students were able to come outside and observe the project’s progress. Some grades even sang songs to thank the volunteers.

“This playspace is going to provide an opportunity for all students to come out and play regardless of any issues that they may have in the classroom,” Principal Kristen Gestrich said. “There are no barriers when you come out to play.”

Parent Adam Hill provided the music as people moved approximately 150 cubic yards of mulch; mixed 20,000 pounds of concrete; installed two benches, a slide, music panels and several pieces of handicap-accessible equipment; built a pavilion with multicolored panels; and painted four square and other games in the lot by the playground.

“We work to engage members of the community to ultimately serve together,” Habitat’s Allegheny Valley Executive Director John Tamiggi said. “I think this truly exemplified those efforts. I can’t say enough about everyone’s passion to see this succeed. It’s a true blessing to be a part of and to witness firsthand the transformation that’s taken place.”

Parent Amy Boccieri was in charge of volunteer recruitment. There were about 100 people from Duquesne Light, more than a dozen from Habitat and the rest from the borough and beyond. Some showed up to help after registration was full.

“It was a huge undertaking, and they all showed up ready and willing to work,” she said about the support. “It has been great. Those who could not be here donated food, donated water, donated snacks and sent lots of things in to help with the overall build.”

Boccieri said she has two daughters in Pivik who are excited to play with everyone.

“They are friends with a large group of kids that (the playground) will impact and benefit,” said Boccieri.

The playground was made possible through a Build it With KaBOOM! grant.

KaBOOM! is a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of children, particularly those growing up in poverty in America. They have built several playgrounds in Mon Valley communities since 2007.

“It’s been a great day,” said KaBOOM! Project Manager Derrick Dixon. “It’s been amazing to see everybody come together as well as all the kids that have funneled their way out here to see how the playground’s progressing. This is a really big build. We’ve set high standards.”

Gestrich said the idea of the playground came last year, but things really didn’t get moving until she successfully applied in June for $90,000 with the assistance of Habitat for Humanity’s Allegheny Valley affiliate.

Duquesne Light was the project’s financing partner.

“We’re fortunate to be in a position where we can work and give back to the communities that we serve,” said Rich Riazzi, Duquesne Light CEO.

Habitat for Humanity is a global nonprofit housing organization that builds homes for needy families.

Tamiggi said there are similar challenges when it comes to building houses and playgrounds.

“I would say they’re equal,” he said. “It just comes back to the passion and hearts of the volunteers able to provide those solutions.”

The new playground is ADA compliant with specialized amenities lower to the ground compared to the school’s original playground, which was built about six years ago and is still in good shape.

The school planned to add to the playground regardless of the grant so all students could play together and because of increased enrollment due to redistricting. Plum closed Regency Park Elementary and changed its remaining three elementary schools from K-6 to K-4 this school year.

That boosted Pivik’s student population from 600 to 749.

A design day took place July 19 where about 25 students gave input on what they wanted in their playground.

Planners used that information to construct the 2,500-square-foot play area.

Plum public works crews assisted with excavation during the two prep days prior to the build.

“We had a lot of moving parts in this process from very early on in late spring, early summer,” Tamiggi said. “Had it not been for the dedicated staff here at Pivik Elementary School, members of the community and those who serve at Duquesne Light, none of the redevelopment and the implementation would have been possible.”

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