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Atkinson Read-a-thon launches playground fund drive


Teacher assistant Tori Hough shows a lion sketch as she reads a picture book to kindergarteners, in the Read-a-thon Friday on Atkinson Elementary’s track. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

By Pete Zamplas- Atkinson Elementary students were literally on track to raise money to improve a playground, launching a “play it forward” campaign with a group “Read-a-thon” Friday.

Atkinson’s more than 350 students sat on the track, reading “around the track” for about ten minutes. They did this to celebrate reading, and show commitment for the new fund drive.

Most read part of one book, on their own. In contrast, kindergarteners were read to. For instance, teacher assistant Tori Hough read a picture book with various animals sketches grabbing attention. The motto for the lion page was “don’t cut into the ‘lion’ (line).”

Time on the track started each student’s log of time read for three weeks. They and their families are gathering funding pledges for each minute read through Oct. 21. Prizes go to most prolific readers and fundraisers.Edneyville Elementary is among other schools recently raising money with read-a-thons. Atkinson’s new, multi-year fund drive is the school Parent Teacher Organization’s first for new playground equipment, landscaping and construction.

The target for the first phase is $12,000 to $25,000, said Atkinson PTO V.P. Alex Kealy. Her twins Kate and Paul, both in third grade, said they were excited by the Read-a-thon. Their mother said they read 30 minutes a day already, and will try for more in the reading fundraiser.


The playground for younger grades needs upgrade. Kindergartener Mason Ryan is scaling the original unit in the foreground, which will soon be removed. Read-a-thon pledges go toward new slides. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Atkinson principal Mark Page, in his second year at the helm, said the event looked “amazing.” His retired father, Dr. Stephen Page, was local school superintendent last decade.

Mark Page eyes first improving the playground for younger (K-2) students. He said it is “not dangerous,” but should be sturdier as a safety preventative measure. In the last year or two, patchwork upgrades include adding wooden braces and cross bars to better support units with many from 2002.

In coming weeks, an original grey wooden unit with violet fiberglass stairs will be removed, Page said. It is believed to be there since 1987, nearly 30 years ago, when the school opened. Its slides were taken out years ago. A crossbar made it shake less, but it still quivers whenever several students climb onto it, Page said.

Slides are a prime need for this playground, and the initial funding phase if met should pay for that and new bordering, Page said.

The other playground, for grades 3-5, has its soft surfaced re-mulched each year. Page said it can use better climbing devices such as monkey bars. One is fine. But Page noted another is too short for many students to stay off the ground, while climbing forward. If feasible, it might get transferred to the K-2 playground once it is replaced.

The older students’ playground is in back. It is by the track, small student garden and empty space. Page plans a swing set to go by the perimeter, leaving open space for running around.

PTO raised money three years ago that got in a concrete basketball court and two backboards and rims, on the track interior, he noted.

Focus for project spending shifts to activities from academics. Atkinson used discretionary and PTO-raised funds to buy such items as chrome laptops for students, and LCD screens for each classroom (instead of only in the library), Page said.

The school is at 2510 Old Kanuga Road in Hendersonville, in the East Henderson district. It is an N.C. School of Distinction and N.C. Honor School of Excellence, for exceeding expected growth.

In a pilot safety program, Atkinson and Upward elementaries each have three school buses fully equipped with seat belts.

Those considering pledges for Atkinson’s playground campaign should call the school at 697-4755.

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