comscore Big Isle elementary school launches GoFundMe for new playground | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Big Isle elementary school launches GoFundMe for new playground

  • COURTESY JUDITH TANG
                                The state Department of Education condemned the playground in 2017 after high humidity and rain rusted the play equipment, and it was deemed unsafe for children to play on.

    COURTESY JUDITH TANG

    The state Department of Education condemned the playground in 2017 after high humidity and rain rusted the play equipment, and it was deemed unsafe for children to play on.

The students at Keonepoko Elementary school in Pahoa just want a playground to play on during recess.

For two years, their campus playground has been condemned and cordoned off with yellow caution tape, and students have been making do with a grassy area and single walkway. The students, approximately 575 in all, have no swings, slides or play structure.

To change this, teachers at the school have launched a GoFundMe campaign, seeking to raise $375,000 to help the school build a new playground on campus. Funds from the campaign will go into an account run by Friends of Keonepoko, a nonprofit led by special education teacher Judith Tang.

“We just want a playground,” said Tang. “I thought, even though we went a whole year without it being fixed, I thought it would be fixed when I came back [from summer break]…These kids are going another year without a playground…We want it to happen.”

As part of the campaign, second-graders and teacher Christi-Jean Donnelly sing a song asking for a playground in a video posted to YouTube, with the help of music teacher Jenifer Tsuji.

The state Department of Education condemned the playground in 2017 after high humidity and rain rusted the play equipment, and it was deemed unsafe for children to play on.

Tang said the school is on a waiting list, but that it might be another three years before it gets a new playground. She decided to take initiative with the campaign, with the thought that some kindergarteners at the school would not get an opportunity to play on a playground at recess for years.

Design plans have not been finalized yet, Tang said, but she is envisioning a play structure that offers kids a mental as well as physical challenge, a swing that children can lay on, a basketball court and benches with shade.

Many of the staff, as well as parents of children who attend the school, she said, lost their homes or were forced to evacuate during the 2018 Kilauea eruption.

The state DOE will contribute $100,000 toward the new playground, a spokeswoman said, and will also pay for the removal of the existing playground.

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled the music teacher Jenifer Tsuji’s last name.

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