Greystone Elementary School’s Race to Raise a Playground

Artistic rendering of the new Greystone elementary school.

This summer West Chester Area School District will open its first school since Rustin opened in 2006 and its first elementary school since Starkweather in 1991. Greystone Elementary, GES to those in the know, will be located at 1195 Aram Avenue just behind the Wawa off Pottstown Pike and is shaping up to be a beautiful new addition to West Chester’s otherwise aging school system. However, doing something for the first time in a while doesn’t come without its kinks.   

“We were all first shocked,” said Selene Abou-Maarouf, member of the newly formed Greystone elementary PTO’s community outreach committee. “Then we made peace with the idea.”

The elementary school which is on schedule to be completed by August 1 will eventually be home to 600 students and the district’s Emotional and Autistic support program. At 80,000 square feet it is a cheerful, open space with lots of windows. It has a large art room, a central courtyard, and a library with a cathedral ceiling. 

“It is a big, bright, very pretty space,” Greystone Principal Kevin Fagan said in an introductory video to parents. 

The space was specially designed to let in as much light as possible. The synthetic turf in the enclosed courtyard limits allergens. The maker space in the library encourages collaboration and helps students prepare for the 21st century workforce. The art room features a kiln room for an onsite ceramics program and a large glass-enclosed art display case has been installed to give premium viewing to the students’ art projects. 

“I can tell you that it is absolutely beautiful,” Selene agreed.

“Traditionally, the WCASD has not funded any of the playgrounds. The equipment has been placed thanks to the community coming together.”

Selene Abou-Maarouf, Greystone PTO
Traditionally the school district has built the school. The community has provided the playground. Here the future classes of Greystone participate in a Power of Play fundraiser.

An amazing space to be sure. The West Chester Area School District has taken care of every last detail, except one. There is no playground. That is right. Currently Greystone is an elementary school without a playground.   

“Traditionally, the WCASD has not funded any of the playgrounds that we have in the elementary schools currently opened,” explained Selene. “The equipment has been placed thanks to the community coming together.”

I wonder if Selene and team are aware that at least eight of the current 10 elementary schools were built before 1974 (I couldn’t find a date for East Bradford) and that playgrounds have grown significantly in size and scope since then? 

“The ultimate goal is to raise $150,000, which will cover playground equipment that has been carefully selected to meet all abilities,” she said. 

I guess she knows.

Builder rendering of the proposed Greystone playground.

Phase one of the playground will feature an extensive Geoscramble with multiple slides and plenty of places for students to climb and explore. There will also be a swing set with eight traditional and two handicap swings, a wheelchair accessible unity dome and a multi-tier monkey-bar canopy creation to inspire climbers of all levels.

To be fair, the PTO isn’t completely on its own. The district will be contributing $60,000 to the project. (To put that number in perspective the total cost of the project is projected at $23.6 million.)

“We are still unsure how much of that will go towards equipment, but we now know that getting the area ready, grass seeding and mulch will be covered by the school,” said Selene

When West Chester’s were schools built:

  • Glen Acres – opened in 1967 – Generous additions added in 1996-97
  • Penn Wood – opened 1966 – additions in ‘69, ‘88, updates in 1999-2000 and 2012-2013
  • Westtown-Thornbury – opened in 1955 – additions in ‘89, ‘92; and 2021, renovations 2012
  • Hillsdale – opened in 1974
  • Sarah Starkweather – opened in 1991 – addition added 1998
  • Fern Hill – opened in 1957, additions in 1961, 1989
  • Mary C. Howse – opened in 1962, additions in 1965, 1997
  • Exton – build in 1941, additions in 1954, 1958, and renovation and addition in 1994
  • East Bradford – ???
  • East Goshen, built in 1955, addition in 1995

Transitioning to a new school is never easy. And while a few families, especially those with students heading into fifth grade, have decided to finish out their time with their current schools, most are excited to be among the school’s inaugural class.

“In the case of my family and my close friends and neighbors, we are all very excited to be in a brand new building. I have an incoming 5th grader who is excited to be part of the first graduating class at GES,” said Selene.  

It’s not hard to see why. While the bulk of West Chester’s elementary schools were built during another generation, when fundraisers consisted of bake sales and phone chains and door-to-door asks – these students will enjoy the benefits of modern design (like plenty of natural light) and a brand new inclusive playground to go along with it. If the newly formed Greystone PTO, and their online donation campaign, has anything to say about it. 

If you are a business or individual and would like to donate to the project, the PTO has set up a website. There is a place to donate but also a place for incoming families to register their information. You can also follow the PTO’s progress on Facebook.  

Take a minute and consider a donation of support. You saw those dates, who knows when your school could be next? 

Also, playing in the dirt. West Chester looks to get more kids into gardening.

New to Hello, West Chester? Follow along for news and community updates.

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