Ruth N. Upson students play on the monkey bars of the new playground

Ruth N. Upson Elementary wraps school year with brand new playground

June 5, 2024 — A dream was fulfilled for hundreds of Ruth N. Upson Elementary students recently as school and community leaders cut the ribbon on a brand-new playground.

“It was so cool to cut the ribbon,” said Olivia Mueller, a fourth grader at the school. “I think the playground is super fun and has more interactive play areas.”

Mueller’s best friend, Addison Blaylock, shared her excitement.

“I love that it’s purple and yellow because that’s our school colors,” said Blaylock. “It feels like it’s going to be safer and easier to move around.”

Not only is the playground an exciting addition to one of the oldest elementary schools in the city, but Principal Dr. Faith Roberts-Graham says it’s a solution to the problem the school has historically faced: taking students across the street to spend recess at the Murray Hill Park because there was no onsite playground.

“It definitely brings a sense of relief that the students have a safe place on campus to play and get their energy out,” said Roberts-Graham. “Students have been waiting, and now they have the opportunity to play and feel safe behind the gate and don’t have to cross the street.”

Students say they echo their principal’s concerns.

“I feel like it’s safer here than across the street because anything could happen like a car driving and we could get hit,” Mueller said.

“We had to make sure no one was going too fast,” said Blaylock. “Once we actually got across to the parking lot, we had to be aware of our surroundings more than ever.”

But now they have a playground of their own. Roberts-Graham says this project has been in the works for a year and is a result of a collaborative effort between the city of Jacksonville, the district, parents, and community members.

Just seeing the smiles on the children’s faces as they ran across the newly unveiled playground made it all worth it, said Roberts-Graham.

“Our students were resilient and they were flexible,” she said. “They had faith in me, and I promised them that it was going to happen, and when it happened, they were very appreciative.”

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