"Many hands make light work."

The quote by English author and playwright John Heywood is particularly meaningful when thinking of the New Albany-Plain Local School District.

It is no secret that people can do things more quickly and easily when they work together. As a district we work collaboratively every day in pursuit of our purpose: to create a culture of accountability that achieves the best academic and developmental outcomes for each student.

When we introduced the idea of a transformed playground to benefit more than 3,000 students daily for our primary, intermediate and middle schools back in the fall of 2019, we conveyed to the school board, staff and community that portions of the current playground were more than 20 years old and in need of some repairs and updates.

In identifying what we needed for student play, we also went straight to the source: our students.

We learned the two top activities that they loved the most were swinging and climbing. This helped us determine our next steps in reimagining the playground for the future in consultation with local playground designers, Blake and Patty Hobson, who actually designed the original playground when the schools were built.

Although we have areas that definitely need replaced, we also have other features that are fairly new and still useful. Most recently, the district installed equipment that is accessible for all students and paid for through federal grant funding in 2018.

This summer, our playground will close immediately after the last day of school May 28 to permit refurbishment to occur on two quadrants of the playground equipment in addition to asphalt resurfacing, basketball-court renovations, sidewalks and group-play areas.

About 50% of the playground equipment will remain the same as today but will receive preventative maintenance to permit it to continue into our future for scheduled replacements between 2028 and 2038.

Although our entire playground will be closed all summer, the transformation to reopen Aug. 16 will be an exciting feature of the upcoming school year.

How did we get here? Remember how we started this column: "Many hands make light work" -- or lighter, in our case. We are grateful for our community partners who accepted our challenge to enhance our playground to benefit our students and our community alike:

The city of New Albany — $210,000

The playground not only will serve more than 3,000 students daily, but it also will be a community gathering spot for after-school hours and weekends. With its proximity to the new Rose Run Park and the future community amphitheater, it will be a destination for families at different times. The city realized this and offered support for the playground with a significant contribution of $210,000 toward the installation of covered pavilions, which serve as a gathering space for families, provide shade for all and serve as an outdoor learning location for our schools. The contribution of $210,000 was approved by New Albany City Council members in early March, and we appreciate their commitment.

American Electric Power — $40,000 grant

Our community helped make this happen. AEP promoted new energy-saving services in the community at many of our athletics and community events throughout the fall, with the goal of 300 households to sign up and become interested. The city's partnership with AEP enabled our school district to receive a grant for $40,000.

The primary, intermediate, middle school and high school parent-teacher organizations — $50,853.91

GiveGame — $1,530.50

The Eagle Wellness Ninja Challenge, a new fundraiser organized by our primary and intermediate school PTOs with our wellness teachers, raised $50,853.91. The primary PTO raised $37,660.91 and the intermediate PTO raised $13,193. The challenge encouraged wellness for our students in grades 1 to 6 with a variety of obstacles designed for fun and friendly competition. Children loved participating and helping to raise funds to enhance their new playground.

The middle school and high school PTOs piloted a new fundraising opportunity using the GiveGame platform developed by New Albany resident and district parent Matt Golis. The feedback received by game participants was positive, and this pilot contributed $$1,530.50 toward our playground project.

The remaining funding will be from facility-rental fees charged for the Eagle's Nest school-age child-care program and the Eagle Summer Day Camp, our permanent-improvements fund, federal resources to benefit inclusive play and remaining interest for our 2013 bond fund.

So remember, when you want to accomplish something great for children, it's a big job but "many hands make light work." We are excited about transforming our playground to benefit students, families and our entire community this summer.

Michael Sawyers is superintendent of the New Albany-Plain Local School District.