‘Raise the Shade’ fundraises for shade structures at Old Orchard Elementary School

Photo courtesy of Dora Wexler.
Photo courtesy of Dora Wexler.

Your daughter comes home from her day at elementary school with her face red and sunburned. She only spends a brief amount of time outside in the sun, so one question remains, how did this happen? 

Suzanne Levine became aware of the lack of shade at Old Orchard Elementary School’s play structure because of this. Many elementary schools in the valley have shade available at their play structures, so Levine asked herself, “Why is there no shade?” 

Old Orchard Elementary School opened in 1969, and shade over the play structures has never been a part of the school. To get shade, children will huddle together in the only spot they are able to access: under the slide.  

Levine, former PTO president Dora Wexler and Principal Daria Ramirez all say they don’t know why there have never been any shade structures.

The Newhall School District has not provided shade structure funding for the school. 

The Old Orchard PTO decided to take the initiative. They created the fundraising event, “Raise the Shade” in May.   

“Our organization is founded on offering students meaningful experiences that may not otherwise be paid for by the school or the Newhall School District,” said Wexler. “To come up with a $150,000 fundraising event is huge, it’s a huge undertaking. I think that maybe it’s been something that’s been intimidating to people in the past.” 

The $150,000 is planned to cover three shade structures: 

• A 30- by 60-foot double-sized shade structure over the main play area. Approximate cost: $86,000. 
• A 20- by 30-foot shade structure over the swings. Approximate cost: $32,000. 
• A 14-foot single-post cantilever over the Kinder play yard. Approximate cost: $25,000. 

These prices were quoted by a district-approved vendor in February.  

The absence of grass and shade makes play time less enjoyable for the children in the hotter months, kids and parents say. 

Jonah Levine, 8, a student at Old Orchard Elementary, says the current temperatures are “hot” and “annoying.” He also said the “slides get hot because they’re plastic.” 

Ramirez said there have been a couple of instances of kids being sent to the nurse’s office due to heat. She wants her students to enjoy the play structure as much as they possibly can, without suffering any consequences. 

“They love being outdoors,” said Ramirez. “It’s something they look forward to and our goal is really to give them that opportunity to engage in outdoor play because that’s an opportunity for them to build their social skills through that unstructured play. They love just having the freedom because in the classroom, you know, it’s the teachers making the decisions, but outside they get to have that flexibility and freedom to just play what they want. We really just want to give them an opportunity to enjoy that time.” 

“Raise the Shade” has raised $10,000 in anonymous donations, $50,000 of promised match donations, $15,000 from the PTO, $4,000 of fundraised money from a silent auction, $5,000 of grant money from the Coto Foundation and $6,080 from the PTO’s GoFundMe campaign at bit.ly/3ufjpSp. 

Levine, Wexler and Ramirez are all hopeful to have the first shade structure in the main play area up this summer. 

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