Quitman Street Community Playground Construction Kicks Off

NEWARK, N.J.: Quitman Street Community School kindergarteners joined members of the community today to celebrate this summer’s expansion of the Central Ward school’s playground. The new play space will increase the existing playground at the school by more than a third, the School, The Trust for Public Land, and Newark Public Schools announced.

In 2000, The Trust for Public Land (TPL) developed a 35,000-square-foot playground at the Quitman Street Community School in Newark’s Central Ward. TPL worked with students, teachers, and parents to design the original playground, which includes play equipment, basketball courts, a small synthetic turf field, and a junior-sized running track. The playground is primarily used by the Quitman School’s first- through eighth-grade students. Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students play in a separate 13,500-square-foot space and Newark Public Schools asked TPL to return to Quitman School to develop the smaller playground into a space that will promote exercise, learning, and fun for the youngest students and neighborhood children.

Principal Erskine Glover said, “The Quitman St. Community School stakeholders are excited about this new addition to the school. Finally, our Early Childhood students will have a 21st Century playground that stimulates their sensory-motor and academic abilities. Learning will truly be extended beyond the walls of the interior boundaries of the school, and students will now have the space to be creative and critical learners. The new playground will help promote our schools vision for creating developmentally appropriate practices that allow for exploration, experimentation, and engineering. With the new playground slated to open in September 2011, I am excited to see how the STEM initiative we begun this year will now flourish among our Pre-K & Kindergarten children. The potential for the new playground is endless, and ultimately the new playground zone will be a safe and fun-filled place that all young children can feel free to just be a kid.”

In late 2010, TPL began design workshops with students, teachers, and local residents to design the new playground and outdoor learning area. The final design for the new playground will include play equipment for children aged two through five, a track for walking and tricycling, an outdoor classroom, a performance space, raised vegetable garden beds, a rain garden, new trees and plantings, and a ramp for accessibility, among other amenities.

“We encouraged the entire community to participate in the design and they really came through,” said Scott Dvorak, TPL’s Parks for People-Newark director. “Quitman Street’s playgrounds will soon offer children of all ages a great place to play. We are looking forward to September when we can celebrate the new playground with the community.”

Construction of the new playground and outdoor learning area will take place during the summer of 2011 and is scheduled to be complete when school reopens in September. TPL will work closely with the school’s Parent-Teacher Association, and other local residents to support long-term stewardship of both play spaces, ensuring that they will remain safe, well-used resources for the school and community.

Funders who made this project possible include The Bodman Foundation, City of Newark Community Development Block Grant Program, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey, The Hyde and Watson Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Victoria Foundation, Inc. The Prudential Foundation provided lead funding for development of the original Quitman playground in 2000.

The Quitman Street Community Playground groundbreaking will be the first of three park and playground groundbreakings this summer in Newark. The second phase of Jesse Allen Park renovation will begin in the coming months and TPL and the City are also preparing to break ground on the new Riverfront Park this summer.

The Trust for Public Land is the nation’s leader in creating city parks and raising money for local conservation. TPL conserves land for everyone to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places. TPL and partners have made a $45 million investment in 11 Newark parks and playgrounds to date.