Barranca students take on project

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A group of sixth graders noticed a problem with the school’s basketball court and decided to take action

By Jennifer Garcia

It’s hard to keep elementary children engaged in everyday activities without them losing interest, so the fact that a group of Barranca Elementary students did cost analysis and are in the process of doing fundraising for a school project is pretty impressive.
The project began when students in Nicole McGrane’s sixth grade class began a conversation about what the Parent Teacher Organization does for the school. The class started talking about how run-down the basketball courts were.
“I told them if they felt that strongly, then they should do something about it,” McGrane said. She never thought the students would actually take action, but that’s just what they did.
Katie Freyer drafted and circulated a petition, on which she gathered 225 signatures from parents, teachers and community members. She then took it to Barranca Elementary Principal Pam Miller and asked if she could present it to the PTO. Once Freyer received permission, the real work began.
George Steinkamp and Andres Maestas got to work on putting together a cost analysis, while Sam Faulk and Ashley Logan focused on providing presentation support.
The students determined that the existing basketball court needs to be fixed because there is severe concrete damage and Logan was hurt while playing on it. In addition, there is backboard and net damage to the existing hoop. They would also like to add a new basketball court because they said the existing court gets crowded during recess. They are hoping to construct the new court between the current basketball court and the swings.
The students relied on three different resources to support their cost analysis and came up with three basketball hoop options.
The first option features an adjustable, in-ground, 10-foot basketball hoop. Each hoop would cost $1,800 and includes rust armor.
The second option features a non-adjustable, in-ground 10-foot hoop with a complete basket system and rust armor, for $1,600 each.
The third option features a metal backboard, non-adjustable, 10-foot hoop, with a complete basketball system for $2,000 each.
With McGrane’s help, the group put together a PowerPoint presentation, which they showed to PTO members, as well as those in attendance during a recent PTO meeting. The students chose to go with option two, which carries a total of $14,490. Both basket systems will cost $3,200, while the construction of a new 84’ x 50’ concrete court will cost an estimated $11,290.
During the presentation, Logan pointed out that the basket systems feature weather-resistant Plexiglas, rather than the metal backboard that’s there now.
“It’s not easy to break and will last longer,” she said.
The PTO gave their support to the project, but told the students they need to raise some more money. As a result, the group will go to Los Alamos Transit and other businesses which might be able to supply them with the materials needed to construct the court, and ask them for donations or discounts on the materials. The students also plan to utilize parent and community volunteers to help keep the cost of labor down.
Barranca parent Gary Ahlers, who owns Ahlers Contracting, helped with the cost analysis and is willing to complete the project.
McGrane said Miller would also try to help the students by finding other sources of funding.
Construction cannot begin until March or April, depending on when the ground begins to thaw, so the group will not get that much use out of the new hoops because they will move to the middle school next year. However, the delay gives them some time to secure funding, get the projects approved and finalize details. Their hope is to have the project finished by the end of April so they can enjoy playing on the court for a few weeks before graduation.
They also see their efforts as a way to help their peers.
“It’s a way to give to the younger kids,” Maestas said.
“It will be fun for everyone to have a new basketball court,” Steinkamp said. “We might not get it before we leave, but the other kids will get it.”
Faulk said she’s pleased that the class’ first grade buddies will be able to use the court, but also said there’s still a way for her class to get some use out of it.
“We’ll be able to use it if we come here in the summer,” she said.
Freyer said the courts will be safer for younger kids who visit the playground after hours, as well.
“After school the playground becomes a public space,” she said.
McGrane said she’s proud of her students’ efforts in planning this project.
“They turned this into a school effort,” she said. “It’s cool that the whole school and the community has jumped on board. I hope they can accomplish it. I’ll help them in any way I can.”
She also said it’s a good lesson for the group because they will learn a lot about what it takes to make something happen.
“I tell them it’s not always fun, but they need to keep their focus on the end result,” McGrane said.
For more information on the project, or on how to donate money to help with the project, contact McGrane at n.mcgrane@laschools.net.
A link to more information is included with this story on lamonitor.com.