Downing looks to raise money for playground improvements

To give students more access to its playground, Downing Elementary School is raising money for new equipment.

The school recently received a $5,500 in-kind material donation from McCoy’s Building Supply that they were going to use toward additional playground items and replace rocks with sand and mulch.

The equipment they’d like will cost much more. Principal Angelina Hilton obtained the McCoy’s grant.

“We have to come up with about $20,000 because it’s a specialized swing set and playground set. They’re costly,” Assistant Principal Laura Ramirez said.

Multiclassroom Leader Brenda Bustamantes said they sat in on a grant writing session so more of the teachers could try to find ways of fundraising. The campus has a specialized unit and they want all children to have access to the equipment.

The campus has more than 800 students in grades kindergarten through fifth.

“We only have that playground and that’s not enough. We have to think about our special needs students. That’s why we’re working on that. PTO is involved as well. They’re helping us fundraise,” Ramirez said.

Currently, the students use the playground on alternate days. When they are not on the playground, they are receiving social-emotional learning.

“While our focus is academic, it is still important that they have that,” Ramirez said.

“It’s a big part of their learning, too, having that physical activity and social skills,” Bustamantes said.

Ramirez added that kids also learn the rules of games, how to take turns, follow directions and collaborate on the playground.

“We definitely have our share of learning opportunities out there to be problem solvers because we’re very limited in the equipment,” Bustamantes said.

She added that they are going to try for an Education Foundation grant.

Nick Spears, community involvement specialist with McCoy’s Building Supply, said Downing was the first school in Odessa that McCoy’s has awarded a grant to.

At McCoy’s, Spears said, at the corporate and store level they focus on what they call the pillars of giving. Those are classifications of donations, sponsorships and community involvement that McCoy’s uses to help guide then in giving locally.

“One of those pillars that we have is education, really at all levels of education. We’ve done donations for preschools and elementary schools all the way up to high schools and universities,” Spears said.

Schools and other organizations typically reach out to McCoy’s through an online form. It is published on the main McCoy’s website. They encourage everyone to make donation requests and review those with store managers and decide if it’s a fit for McCoy’s to participate in the opportunity.

“I think it was very big for us,” store Manager Albert Garza said. “A lot of people don’t know that McCoy’s does donations like that … It was very impactful.”

Ramirez said sometimes they don’t realize that there are businesses out there willing to help and get involved in ECISD.

“They’re in our community and they’re invested in our district, so if we reach out, they might say no and they might surprise you and provide the grant,” Ramirez said.

She added that if any other businesses are interested in supporting and partnering with Downing, they are more than welcome. “Our doors are open,” Ramirez said.

Bustamantes said the principal and assistant principal are new to campus and they have brought an energy to it. They want to beautify it.

They also all work together as a unit and even eat together.

“It’s nice because we know they care about the building and the kids. It makes a difference,” Bustamantes said.