Parents, community hope to win $30,000 contest for Elysian school playground

2014-01-17T08:59:00Z 2014-01-18T22:44:43Z Parents, community hope to win $30,000 contest for Elysian school playgroundBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Last March, voters in the Elysian School district approved in a landslide a $10 million bond for an expansion and renovation of the fast-growing school.

But, the expansion comes at the cost of the school’s playground.

With that in mind, supporters of the school are working to win a contest that would provide $30,000 to build a new playground and are asking the community’s help.

“We’re in dire need of a new school,” said Tammie Easton, who has a daughter at the school and is both a school board trustee and member of the school’s parent-teacher organization. “The playground is well-used and it’s very old. We’re really in need of new playground equipment. We’re going to try to keep what we can.”

Since August, the school has been competing in Dannon’s Rally for Recess program, in which supporters enter codes found on Dannon products for the school of their choice. The school with the most codes gets the cash.

As of Friday morning, Elysian sat in second place in its “Wildcat” division and fewer than 100 votes behind the leader, a school in Georgia. Easton said Elysian and the Georgia school have been neck-and-neck for some time and hopes that a plea to community will put it over the top by the Jan. 31 cutoff date.

“Our school is growing very quickly and we are running out of space,” she said. “We are fortunate enough that the community supported a $10 million bond and with that we can purchase land and build a new building. But that’s exactly where our playground, our recess, is right now.”

Enrollment at Elysian, which consists of an elementary and middle school, has nearly doubled since 2008, with about 235 students now attending.

Easton said the idea came from a neighbor’s son, who was eating yogurt and noticed the contest. After kicking the idea around, Easton and others started gathering codes from Dannon products with the Rally for Recess logo on them and entering them.

They soon learned they could also send in handwritten letters and receive more codes from Dannon and organized a letter-writing effort. That pushed Elysian to the top of the leaderboard for a while before the Georgia school gained ground and the two have been battling since.

With the deadline for the handwritten letters past, organizers of the effort are hoping that people in the community will help. Easton said they’re hoping that businesses and other groups — such as other schools and medical facilities — that go through a lot of food may have already purchased Dannon products with codes they can provide.

She also said that anybody in the community who wants to help can send the codes to an email account set up by supporters, which can then be entered in at the Rally for Recess website.

“Everybody kind of got on board,” Easton said. “One person could never do this.”

Anyone wishing to help can send Rally for Recess codes from Dannon products to codesforrecess@gmail.com.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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