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Some ARP Funds Will Be Used For Project Adventure, Playground Equipment



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The town will be using some of its remaining American Rescue Plan funding to update some aging Project Adventure equipment at Newtown Middle School, install Project Adventure equipment at Reed Intermediate School, and install playground equipment at Middle Gate Elementary.

The Board of Selectmen at its February 21 meeting approved $147,000 in ARP money for those three projects, as well as additional money for a Senior Center and Community Center bus.

The installation at Reed will cost $71,000; the upgrades at Newtown Middle School will cost $21,000; the playground upgrades at Reed will cost $33,000; and the additional money for the bus totals $20,000.

According to proposal documents submitted to the town from the Board of Education, “Project Adventure, an adventure-based, experiential learning program, has been an integral element of Newtown school district’s Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum for over 20 years. It facilitates positive, life-changing, transformative group experiences for Newtown students, staff, and the entire Newtown community.”

The document states that Reed School is the only school in the district offering Project Adventure that does not currently have a challenge course. Instead, educator Sara Strait uses props and indoor climbing equipment to teach her classes.

An outdoor challenge course would allow Strait to do more with the Project Adventure curriculum, design and deliver advanced activities, and fully embrace the experiential learning model. There are currently 584 students enrolled at Reed. All students (with a few exceptions) take Project Adventure, which meets on a six-day cycle for 43 minutes.

“This is a year-long class,” she said.

According to the document, “The bulk of the Middle School request is to fund a new, low-element course that will be set back in the woods. The existing structure would remain as components of it double as high element features. This addition would allow more concurrent use of the Project Adventure course, and increased ease of use for the high element features.

“Necessary repairs to the existing elements are included in the quote; consolidating installation and servicing trips for the PA staff realizes a cost benefit for the district,” the proposal continues. “The Moby Deck element is a higher-level activity that would allow eighth graders a new experience, with the purpose of promoting trust-building with classmates, developing self-awareness, and building confidence.”

Selectman and ARP workgroup member Ed Schierloh said Project Adventure is “hands on,” which is good for students since much of their learning today is computer-based.

“Kids need to develop other skills for team building and problem solving,” said Schierloh.

The work at Middlegate includes repairs to the swings, independent climber, and tower, as well as creating Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant access to a play area.

The proposal document states, “The existing swing set and climbing structures at Middlegate School used by grades K-2 are slated to be replaced. We are proposing to replace the existing structures with a new playscape designed and proposed by UltiPlay, a state-contracted vendor. The existing units on this section of the grounds are estimated to be around 25 years old. The most recent annual evaluation reveals wear, paint chipping, and rust. Middlegate’s enrollment is currently 400, of which 247 are in the lower (applicable) grades.”

First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said the town had previously appropriated $90,000 for a joint Senior Center/Community Center bus, but the town was unable to get the proposed replacement Ford vehicle. Ford buses are currently being prioritized to large enterprises, leaving no room for someone like the town to get a “one-off,” he said.

Rosenthal added that Ford was not going to hold the town’s estimated price, so Department of Public Works Fleet Foreman Tim Whelan was able to find a Chevrolet bus for roughly $107,000.

Associate Editor Jim Taylor can be reached at jim@thebee.com.

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