OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego Common Council Chamber has been the scene of thousands of presentations over the years.
It was packed again on Tuesday as nearly 100 Kingsford Park Elementary School second graders marched to City Hall with a message for Mayor Billy Barlow.
The city-owned playground adjacent to the west side school has fallen into disrepair and the students voiced their concerns to the mayor and other city officials.
The youngsters, accompanied by their teachers and principal, filed into the chamber in orderly fashion and proceeded to take their seats.
“There are some things on the playground that the second graders feel need some changes, some revamping,” teacher Taylor Castaldo told the mayor. “We use the park every day and many members of the community also use it.”
Several of the students stepped up in front of the mayor. They held photos depicting different areas of concern in the playground.
“We would like new safety material for our city playground,” one student told the mayor. “We need this because there is a tarp that people trip on, rocks that can be thrown and a wood barrier that doesn’t help our friends in wheelchairs.”
“We would like more space to play because there are often many classes using the playground at one time. There are 75 second graders alone, imagine the rest of the school and the whole community,” another student said.
The students also said they would like more swings, slides and other equipment so there is room for everyone to play together.
A student noted that the playground isn’t visually appealing.
“It needs new paint to make it look beautiful and more inviting,” he said, adding that “there are also bad words on our city playground that should be covered.”
Among the other concerns shared by the students were: a need for age appropriate equipment for younger and older children, an easier way to get to the playground that isn’t muddy, and the need for garbage cans.
Mayor Barlow told the students that he read all of the letters they sent him recently regarding the playground issue.
“I read every single letter. I found some of the same themes kept coming up. The need for more swings was in just about every letter. I think the other complaint I heard was the problem with all the rocks on the ground,” the mayor said. “Someone asked about fixing the basketball hoop. There were a few other concerns, some of you wrote about the need for trash cans.”
After the meeting, based on the pictures the children had shared, the mayor said he would meet with the DPW Commissioner and see what they can do now to make the park a better place. They would also consider what could be done in the future to improve the playground, he added.
Adding some trash receptacles was something they could do right away.
“I appreciate you coming down. We’ll work to try to improve the playground,” Mayor Barlow said. “We wouldn’t have known about the playground unless you guys told us. So, thank you.”
The students have some real concerns about the playground, Castaldo said.
“They were brain-storming about what they could do to fix things and came up with the idea to bring the matter to the attention of the mayor,” she told Oswego County Today.
This ties into the students’ English lesson, she added. They are learning about writing different types of letters – including the persuasive kind they wrote to the mayor.
Principal Mary Volkomer said she was very proud of her second graders.
“They came up with this idea on their own and followed through,” she said. “All of them were very well-behaved today. They have an idea of how our city government works now. It’s something they are going to remember all their lives.”