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Renovations level up playgrounds

East Grand Rapids — New swings, multi-story play structures, ball courts, gaga pits, slides — these are just some of the new attractions at East Grand Rapids’ three elementary school playgrounds. 

The additions are part of an ongoing renovation project, and while construction won’t fully wrap up until spring, new equipment is already in use at Breton Downs, Lakeside and Wealthy elementary schools.

“We’re really proud of the results, seeing kids play on what’s available right now,” said Anthony Morey, assistant superintendent of finance and operations. 

‘It’s just great to see our students out here playing, not only during school but after school and the weekends.’

— Breton Downs Principal Katie McIntosh

The upgrades are the result of a partnership between the school district and the City of East Grand Rapids, which jointly oversee playgrounds and city parks through a facilities agreement. The city and school board sought community input on playground renovations a few years back, and found there was support and interest in revamping the playgrounds.

Through the city’s parks improvement millage and the district’s recreation millage renewal — both approved in November 2021 — a combined total of around $4 million has been invested in the projects, according to Morey.

Lakeside Principal Stephanie Thelen and Breton Downs Principal Katie McIntosh talk about playground renovations at East Grand Rapids elementary schools

Addressing Wants, Needs

Gathering feedback for the upgrades involved hearing directly from students, and Morey said “kids were very much involved.”

The renovations also have some practical purposes, such as addressing drainage issues, giving parents better pick-up and drop-off accessibility, and improving access for students with physical limitations.

The new playground equipment is drawing student attention “like a shiny new apple,” Breton Downs Principal Katie McIntosh said.

“It’s just great to see our students out here playing, not only during school but after school and the weekends,” she said. “We’re really excited about this addition and the opportunity to have a new playground at our building.” 

Read more from East Grand Rapids:
• High-school additions, renovations proposed in bond request
Plot twist: young authors, illustrators lead the way

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Riley Kelley
Riley Kelley
Riley Kelley is a reporter covering Cedar Springs, Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids and Sparta school districts. An award-winning journalist, Riley spent eight years with the Ludington Daily News, reporting, copy editing, paginating and acting as editor for its weekly entertainment section. He also contributed to LDN’s sister publications, Oceana’s Herald-Journal and the White Lake Beacon. His reporting on issues in education and government has earned accolades from the Michigan Press Association and Michigan Associated Press Media Editors. Riley’s early work in journalism included a stint as an on-air news reporter for WMOM Radio, and work on the editorial staff of various student publications. Riley is a graduate of Grand Valley State University. He originally hails from western Washington.


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