What could be more fun for an elementary school student than a new playground? Try three of them.
Thanks to a significant donation from the late Earl and Almeda Frazier, students at Soddy Elementary School will get to play on new, handicap-accessible playgrounds this year.
The donation came as a great surprise to school officials, said Soddy Principal Kim Roden. Almeda Frazier passed away in 2012, and her husband Earl passed in late 2015. Though they had no children of their own, the Fraziers willed about 12 percent of their remaining funds to the elementary school to benefit the children, Roden said.
"[Almeda Frazier]'s mother taught here years and years ago, back when it was K-12," said Roden. "They always remained faithful to the community here. I never actually got to meet them personally, but I know they had strong ties here."
Previously, the school had only one playground for all of its 400-450 students. Now specifically for the upper-grade students, that decades-old playground has been fitted with new equipment. The school has also constructed a new pre-K playground for the youngest to play on featuring more stationary, safe equipment for kids that age, and another playground for kindergartners through second-graders to use.
"We have a lot of special needs students at our school, so we wanted to make sure everything was wheelchair-accessible," Roden said.
The equipment and playground structures for the three areas cost in excess of $100,000, and school officials still have plans to install more swing sets, she said.
In addition to the playground equipment, the Fraziers' donation has enabled the school to fund its art program for the second year in a row, as well as a brand-new STEM program for students. Roden said the STEM program will emphasize group projects and critical thinking by incorporating more technology into the classrooms.
The school is planning to keep reserve funds from the donation to continue the arts and STEM programs in future school years.
"Our leadership team and I hope that the program proves to be a success and that we can continue it," said Roden. "It will enrich our science programs and standards and help our students learn to collaborate together on projects."
The promised funding has come in pieces as the Fraziers' estate is slowly settled, but the playgrounds, art and STEM programs will all be ready for students to take advantage of once school starts Aug. 10, she said.