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Newell Elementary Reopens Playground

Newell staff and students smiling on the new playground.

April 30th, 2024

Smiles were all-around for a grand occasion at Newell Elementary school this morning!  The students have been looking forward to this moment for eight months — or 1,600 recesses — and today their patience was rewarded.

On a brisk sunny morning, Newell Elementary unveiled its brand new playground to a full crowd of excited students and staff.

Including bright-colored monkey bars, large slides, a full running area, and more, Newell students, staff, families, and GIPS administration gathered to celebrate the reopening of the main playground for the Elementary school.  No one was more excited than the students during Tuesday’s first recess. 

“Excitement has been building over the past few weeks!” Nate Balcom, Newell Elementary Principal, said, “Seeing the smiles on our students' faces as they finally get to enjoy their rebuilt playground warms our hearts.”

New playground at Newell Elementary

Closing a year of transition, the new playground is a welcome, happy milestone for the Knights of Newell.

On August 23rd, 2023, Mr. Balcom got a call he’d never hoped to get.  An unwanted fire was reported to have started on the Newell Playground early that evening.  Thanks to the Grand Island Fire Department (GIFD) and the Grand Island Police Department (GIPD), the fire was extinguished within minutes and no one was harmed.  While the individuals responsible for starting the fire (who were not connected to Newell) received legal consequences, the playground did not survive the flames.

In the aftermath, the estimated damages were $50,000.

Following the insurance process, GIPS partnered with Creative Sites to rebuild the Newell playground and provide an exciting new play area for students without additional cost to the district.

Smiling Newell 5th Grader on the playground spinning globe.

While the Newell Knights waited patiently for their renewed play area, other district Elementary schools showed their support.  Schools like Seedling Mile, West Lawn, Knickrehm, and others donated outdoor field games, balls, hula hoops, board games, and more for Newell students to enjoy during indoor and outdoor recess.  The generosity was felt and appreciated.

Adding some “green life” to the view were generous donations from two local business partners.  Closing out the day’s festivities, Newell students helped plant a tree that was donated by Earl May and a few shrubs donated by Ace Hardware.  The freshly planted scenery and promise of new shade helped bring it all together. 

Mr. Balcom smiling by the Newell Playground with students.

“We are so thankful because of the support of our school district and especially our Buildings and Grounds Crew.” Mr. Balcom affirmed, “Thanks to them, our Newell Knights are now able to enjoy their playground equipment again before the school year is over!”

Hearing laughter and seeing happy students playing outside is a wonderful thing.  And for Newell Elementary, they are feeling whole again.