Last spring, it looked like D.H. Stanton Elementary School in Peoplestown might close. On Monday, the school dedicated a new playground, among a long list of improvements that have been made.
The playground, with a slide and climbing equipment, was the first one in a long time for students, said Interim Principal Clara Taylor. She said when she arrived last March, there were only rusted monkey bars, which she had taken down. Taylor convinced Atlanta Public Schools to move the playground from another school that closed.
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Taylor said to a group of community leaders and parents, “A key component of anything...is play. We know if we open students’ minds to play, that will transcend into the classroom.”
The students were part of the ceremony, giving cheers for the playground and then racing to try out the new equipment as soon as the ribbon was cut.
The kindergarten students chanted, “A playground, a playground, a place to have fun. I can jump, I can slide, and I can run!”
The playground is just one improvement that has been made since Atlanta Public Schools threatened to close Stanton last spring as part of a redistricting process. Even before that, Summerhill residents balked at a proposal that would have sent their children to Stanton, with one parent saying conditions outside the school building were “atrocious.” She cited a playground with broken and missing equipment, and letters missing from the school’s sign out front.
That story helped mobilize the community, Peoplestown Neighborhood Association President Kevin Lynch told Patch in an email.
Now, the front sign is fixed. Sidewalks have been repaired. Flowers and shrubs have been planted around the front sign and in the courtyard. The school has a new assistant principal and new staff members. The inside has been painted. A retaining wall has been replaced. All of this is according to PTA President Feroza Syed.
“I believe every single item has been tackled,” Syed told Patch, out of a list of hundreds of items.
She said the community learned the school would close just before spring break. A rally was held, and 300 people showed up. Then in one week, residents pulled together a plan to keep the school open. The Peoplestown Neighborhood Association got involved, along with Emmaus House, Peoplestown Revitalization Corporation and other community groups. The PTA was given charters and bylaws at its meeting earlier this month. “It was absolutely life-changing; it was amazing,” she said.
“Everybody from the outside would assume everything’s been done, but we’re just starting,” Syed said. “[The playground] is something you can see, but the things you can’t see are so amazing.”
Neighborhood leaders credit the principal’s hard work in getting the playground.
“Dr. Taylor and her team advocated tirelessly for this from APS. They deserve much credit for getting it done,” Lynch told Patch in an email.
The playground was completed about a week ago, and some kids were playing on it over the weekend before its official opening, Taylor said. That’s what it’s meant for – to give kids a place to play after school and on weekends, as well as during school hours.
“It feels really great, and I’m really happy and excited for the students,” Taylor said.
“School is not just about school but about the community,” Taylor added. “It’s been awesome working with the community. There’s something so special about the value of the school in the community.”