Volunteers clean, upgrade Arlington school playground

Hundreds make Justina Road Elementary's playground a better place to play

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – You would think a clean and safe playground is something every elementary school would have. For one school in our area that wasn't the case until Saturday.

Hundreds of volunteers came out to make that a reality for one Arlington school.

With every rake, Alliyah Spann is making the playground at her school, Justina Road Elementary, a better place to play.

"It's fun. I like doing it," said Spann. "The playground looks a lot better now."

Better and cleaner, all thanks to a partnership of FSCJ, Home Depot, St. Johns Riverkeeper and hundreds of volunteers.

With an upgrade long overdue, it's something the schools principals and teachers appreciate.

"Oh it's huge, getting the campus beautiful, so that you feel proud of it is going to make a big difference," said Vickie Ingram, a math coach. "I think this will impact the classrooms, the kids in how much pride they show and how much more they want to learn."

"I am hoping that this will help them understand that we have to start taking care of our leaning community inside and outside of the school," said Principal Lecreshia Harris.

There is new paint, new sports equipment, gardens and nature trails. Students from FSCJ even raised hundreds of dollars to pay for some of the items.

This is the end of a project that's been going on for a year. FSCJ students have been developing lesson plans and doing community service projects here at the school.

Dr. Betina Malhotra, the FSCJ professor who coordinated the event, said her students make learning hands on and infused with technology. So students at Justina Road Elementary came up with the restoration plans themselves.

"They've learned their math, their science, their history and their English, while designing what we were all going to be doing here today," said Malhotra.

This motivated all kinds of groups, from other students to sailors from Naval Station Mayport, to help out.

"We're just here to help the kids dreams come true," said Rachel Bourgeois. "We're just here to kind of give them a little helping hand in what they designed."

"Every time there's been something to support the military, these people are out there doing that for us, so what little bit we can do for them, everybody's going to jump at that chance," said Daniel Muhlbach of Naval Station Mayport.

This was the chance to turn a playground into a place of pride.