Fletcher Elementary School Dedicates Playground To Honor Friends

“Although the last piece of equipment went into this playground in the summer of 2013, it wasn’t quite finished without a sign. Today, we gather to dedicate the final step in the Fletcher Memorial Park with a sign honoring some wonderful people who are special to our school,” said teacher Teresina Isabella.

Fletcher Elementary School staff, students and community members recently gathered to dedicate the “The Fletcher Park Memorial Sign,” which holds four names: Isabella Stanford, kindergarten student; Karen Lange, teacher; JD Smith, custodian; and Josephine Colburn, foster grandmother, who touched the lives of many at Fletcher Elementary School. The Fletcher PTA wanted to do something special for Isabella Stanford, a kindergarten student who lost her life due to a car accident last year. They decided to create a memorial sign for the playground, which also honored other special people with ties to Fletcher School. During the dedication, Fletcher staff members told some of their favorite memories of the honorees and third-grader John Smith Jr., along with his peers, read a special poem.

The playground was originally updated so that all students at Fletcher Elementary School could use the area. The new playground is doubled in size and now meets the needs of a larger school, along with the age requirements and appropriateness for students with physical disabilities. The students love the extra space to run and the additional equipment that they can play on.

“The person who was responsible for making this happen and was the true driving force was our pre-kindergarten teacher Jennifer Schrader. She spent countless hours along with Everett Nelson writing grants and organizing fundraisers. This was such an overwhelming project that many thought this playground may never happen, but through the dedication and efforts and constant reminders of her preschool students, ‘Miss Schrader, why can’t we go on the playground?’ kept her moving and that is why we are here today,” said Mrs. Isabella.

“This is a closure to a personal project,” Schrader said. “I started this with my pre-kindergarten students in mind. They did not have a play area that was age appropriate, and would not be permitted to play on it until one was on the school premises. However, with the closing of Rogers School, the project evolved into creating a play area for special needs students and a growing population as well. This could not have been accomplished without the help from the community, Fletcher families and staff, especially Mr. Nelson -who co-wrote grants to local foundations. Without this support, this project could not have been possible.”

A special thanks to all the organizations and individuals who helped create this playground and memorial sign: The Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation, The Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, The Jessie Smith Darrah Foundation, Artone Manufacturing and Michael Calmeri (owner), Hanson Sign Company, and families of Fletcher students and staff.