Volunteer effort pays off at Kickemuit Middle School


They didn't earn any extra credit for helping out, but the several dozen students who stayed after class at Kickemuit Middle School Friday, and who came back Saturday, got something better — a better school and a sense of satisfaction.

Volunteer parents, students and teachers spent late last week laying out pavers and building a new recess area in a formerly dingy area of Kickemuit Middle School, right behind the bus circle. The area had been used for years as a makeshift recess area off the cafeteria, but a community effort, and nearly $40,000 worth of donated materials and time, transformed it after several years of discussion and work.

"Now they can go outdoors, go to the basketball hoops or sit at the picnic tables and enjoy it," said Lane Sparkman, who has children in the school and helped organize the volunteer effort.

The small area off the cafeteria was never really designed as a recess spot, but evolved into one over years despite the presence of dumpsters and raggedy areas where grass could not grow. Four years ago, Ms. Sparkman went to an open house at the school with her daughter Mills and wasn't impressed.

"I thought, 'Wow, that's dismal,'" she recalled.

She and a few moms talked about doing something with the area but nothing changed until last year, when she went to another open house with her younger daughter Ellery, who was entering Kickemuit. Nothing had changed, and Ms. Sparkman figured now was the time.

"We said, at least we can make this space a little more user friendly," she said. "We talked about putting up another basketball hoop, tables … As it was (before the work) nobody would walk out there unless they were told to."

She and other parents met with school officials, the school committee and the superintendant's office.

"My goal was to have it be a really small and simple project that could be banged out in the summer. It didn't work out that way."

Talking with Enzly Ramsay of Ramsay's Landscaping in Bristol, parents learned that simply planting grass to beautify the area wouldn't work. Putting in pavers was a better bet, he said. Mr. Ramsay agreed to donate grading and landscaping services if parents would provide the pavers and other materials. Other visits to Arnold's Lumber bore fruit too — Arnold's and Unilock agreed to donate pavers, ELJ in Bristol donated stone sustrte, and DaPonte's Landscaping in Bristol pitched in for shrubs. Though the PTO, district and school committee donated some funds (which mostly went to benches) most of the other materials were donated.

"It's just amazing how everyone pitched in for what we needed," Ms. Sparkman said. "It wouldn't have been possible otherwise."




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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.