FRANKLIN – It was Friday night in Franklin and dozens of kids lined up in front of the Franklin Central School behind a long, blue and white ribbon.
Behind that ribbon dozens of feet away was a brand new playground, built with support from a combination of grants and tens of thousands in donations the community raised practically overnight.
All that was left for the kids was a countdown.
“Everybody ready?” Franklin Central School principal Joyce Hakey called. The kids shouted back yes and, after a countdown from ten, scissors cut through the ribbon, party poppers popped and a swarm of kids sprinted for the brand new Franklin Central School & Community Playground.
For decades, the Franklin Central School playground was a wooden structure reportedly built by “the men of the town” 25 years ago, according to the playground committee’s chair, Pam Greene.
When coats of paint wouldn’t hold and insurance became a problem, the school formed its fundraising committee with Greene at its helm and, with fundraising beginning in only December, the school raised more than $80,000 for equipment.
Grants played a part in raising those sums, but, according to Greene, most of the funding came from community donations and from events like the community auction that filled the Abbey restaurant to capacity.
According to Greene, their fundraising’s success rested less with their committee and more with a supportive community and, in particular, their school’s principal.
“It’s the generosity of the Franklin community,” Greene said. “When [Hakey] asked, people gave and they gave again.”
“As is always the case, Franklin turned out,” agreed Franklin selectperson Dave Bennion.
The school’s new playground was technically finished the day it opened, with benches installed only hours before ribbons were cut.
Its features, many built off of suggestions from Franklin’s students themselves, run the gamut of most modern playgrounds’ features. Climbers, slides and monkey bars trace and wrap around the structure, and spinners and a funnel ball basket sit nearby.
While the playground sits on school property, its title identifies as both the school’s playground as well as the community’s.
“At the end of the day, when families are out here after school and at night, it can be a gathering place,” Hakey said to the Messenger after the ribbon cutting. “It’s a great resource for everybody, and that’s why it’s a school and community playground.
“It’s another thing for this community to be proud of.”
Devin and Ashley Bachelder, parents of three with close ties to the school, were both excited to have the new equipment in their town.
“Just from the turnout tonight, you can see this is really great for the town and great for the school,” said Devin Bachelder, a member of both the Franklin school board and the unified Missisquoi Valley school board.
“With my middle child, we’ve been touring around, and everywhere he goes, he wants to try out the playground,” said Ashley Bachelder, a teacher at the Franklin school. “I’d tell him, ‘We’re going to have that on the playground in Franklin,’ and there was joy on his face.
“It’s what they want, you know?”
Ahead of cutting the playground’s ribbon, amidst a building excitement from kids, Principal Hakey took a moment to address the wider audience of Franklin residents Friday evening.
“When I went to the classrooms and told the kids we were going to have this opening… I said to the kids this town loves this school,” Hakey said. “They’re proud of this school, they love this school, they love you guys, and they wanted you to have this equipment.
“You hear that quote ‘it takes a village to raise a child. Well, in this town, you people live that expression. You walk the talk, and we’re just so grateful.”
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