The students of West Salem Grade School can look forward to their playground getting a big upgrade in the fall.

The West Salem Grade School Parent-Teacher Organization’s recent fish fry and auction garnered the organization nearly $18,000, which will go towards paying for the second phase of their playground refresh project.

According to PTO representative Erin Fenton, the fish fry and auction raised $17,691. That money was raised through advance ticket sales and the auction.

Fenton commented that, “All WSGS students were asked to sell advance tickets for the fish fry, and every single student was represented in the classroom projects we auctioned.”

The auction was particularly notable because it didn’t just feature items from local businesses, it also featured items from the students.

“A few students even contributed their own handmade items to the auction,” Fenton writes.

She continued, describing the students’ items, “Second grader Brook Greathouse sewed a table runner and a pillow for the auction, and seventh grader Aly Williams donated some of her famous homemade jams, jellies, and bread. Caden Rothrock, an eighth grader, donated three pieces of jewelry he crafted from silverware.”

However, the WSGS students contributed more than just their crafts; they also helped out during the event.

“Several Jr. high students helped with setting up tables and chairs the morning of the event, and Student Council members were on hand during the fish fry to help with clearing tables and serving drinks,” Fenton explained.

The PTO representative went on to describe the auction.

“There was a wide variety of over 80 auction items and there was truly something for everyone!”

And there truly was something for just about everyone! Fenton listed off several of the items that were auctioned off.

“We auctioned experiences like a fire truck ride to school and shopping with Mrs. Meeks; handmade items from local artisans, like a barn quilt from Evelyn Bare and a stained-glass piece from Jane Hedrick; and baskets/packages with titles like Second Amendment, St. Louis Getaway, Aikman Wildlife Adventure and more.”

As mentioned earlier in the story, the proceeds from the event are going to the new playground project for WSGS. The playground project is no small undertaking either.  

Fenton explained that “the new playground project was split into two phases because of the $60,000 price tag.”

Last summer, the PTO was able to complete phase one of the project, which cost about $9,000. Phase one’s improvements included a new merry-go-round, new monkey bars, a bench and a “coaster climber.”

Originally, the PTO thought that the second phase of the project would take several years to complete.

“We expected the second phase, which includes a large play structure, installation and new surfacing, to take us a few years but have been overwhelmed by the support from the community.”

Due to the success of several of their fundraisers, however, Fenton now expects phase two to be completed ahead of time.

“The chili supper in the fall, selling Dairy Dee ice cream, the Scrip gift card program, donations, grants from Walmart and Monsanto and, of course, the fish fry and auction have enabled us to order the large structure!”

The organization is hopeful that the new playground equipment will be installed and ready for play before school starts.

“Hopefully, it will be in place and ready for the students when school starts this fall.”

The PTO attributes the project’s success to the support they have received from the community.

“We never dreamed we would be able to raise the money so quickly, but it’s proof of how much this school means to our community and the willingness of people to show their support.”

Though this has been, perhaps, the most public project that the PTO has taken on, the organization reminds the public that it is actively seeking to improve the school’s equipment and environment as funds permit.

“While we are thrilled to be able to complete a project of this magnitude in just two years, it’s important for people to realize the PTO is active in our school all year long.”

As Fenton points out, the organization has purchased equipment that benefits teachers and students alike.

“In recent years, the group has purchased Chromebooks and smartboards.”

But it’s not just equipment that the organization buys; they also fund programs, provide food during certain events, and the like.

“On an annual basis, the group pays for the Accelerated Reading Program, hosts the Book Fair, provides snacks for the students during standardized testing, pays for the weekly Scholastic News magazines and provides lunch for the staff during Teacher Appreciation Week.”

And, while the PTO’s project has been a success, they aren’t simply waiting around for the next big thing to land in their laps.

“We are constantly in fundraising mode as it’s about more than just playground equipment. That being said, we are currently brainstorming for our next, big project!”