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PS 50 kids get the paddle

By Ivan Pereira

Playtime just got a whole lot better for elementary school students in Jamaica.

PS 50 opened its new, state-of-the-art playground last Thursday after a year of work and planning between the community and a nonprofit. The million-dollar project transformed the school’s once barren asphalt outdoor space into a more colorful area, complete with an artificial turf field, a play space and a ping-pong table.

“This is overwhelming,” said Rina Manjarrez, principal of the school at 143-26 101st Ave. “Children have the right to eduction, but they also have the right to be children and run and be happy.”

The playground was created in part by the Trust for Public Land, a group that helps to create more public green space in the city, and was funded with the help of a donation from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. The design of the playground was drawn up by the students and their touch can be seen throughout the space.

The slides, monkey bars and other play equipment is modeled after the Titanic and the ground includes a variety of paintings, including a large compass and the sun. It also has a circular, outdoor classroom complete with a blackboard and stone bleacher-style seats.

Leslie Wright, director for the state Division of the trust, said the school’s administration immediately jumped on board with the plan because it not only gave the kids a better recess space but also encouraged them to be more creative.

“This program, to us, is part of a new movement to [help] people understand that open space and park space is essential,” she said.

Students took to the playground immediately and spent most of the opening enjoying the new amenities.

“It looks awesome,” said Jaquitea Jackson, 10, a fifth-grader at the school while she was checking out the turf field. “We always like to play football, so it feels better.”

The PS 50 students are not the only ones who will be using the space. The playground will be open to the community after school hours and during the summer as well.

The new space made Jamaica mother Ramona Rogers happy. Whenever she wanted her 2 1/2-year-old daughter Alea to run and play, she used to travel all the way to Forest Hills for a decent playground.

“My little one now has something closer. She really loves slides,” Rogers said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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