The 180 children at Gilroy Prep School have been without a playground since the school’s opening in August, and parents and staff of Gilroy’s only public charter school are working to raise money to have one built.
“I see there’s nothing for them,” said Sharon Waller, GPS co-founder and kindergarten teacher. “We see a super-need for a playground for the kids and it’s been a struggle to have them come together in an organized area. There’s a group of people who are so dedicated to the cause, and are relentless in their efforts.”
One of those people is Dyane Alcantar, a Gilroy resident and member of the school’s parent club. To help the cause, Alcantar has entered the school’s playground into the Pepsi Refresh Project—a program offering grants to in-need organizations.
Alcantar mentioned that most of the time kids play on a grassy area on campus or go into the school gym. To change this, the school is hoping to receive the $50,000 grant, which will be awarded to the projects that receive the highest number of votes by Dec. 31st.
Alcantar and others are hoping that their playground will rank within the top 10 project, which is a requirement to receive the grant. However, the currently ranks in at number 141 as of Monday evening.
In an attempt to better the school’s chances, parents and faculty have been looking into a handful of grant opportunities, and are asking locals to chip in and vote for their project.
Waller said some additional funding opportunities they’re looking into include the selling of bricks to commemorate the building of a playground to parents and community members. Waller said they’ve raised around $3,000 from selling bricks, and that they’re currently scavenging the community in search of personal donors.
They’ve also applied for a $20,000 grant to Cal Recycle, the state recycling agency that awards local governments and schools money to build rubber playgrounds and keep tires out of landfills. The charter school's playground would qualify because its surface would be constructed from recycled tires.
Most recently, they’ve been working on grant proposals to the Rotary Club of Gilroy and the Gilroy Foundation.
Those interested in casting a vote toward the GPS Playground Project can do so on the school's Pepsi Refresh Project page, or on the Gilroy Prep School homepage.
Individuals who would like to donate directly can do so through PayPal. The PayPal button can be accessed on the Gilroy Prep School homepage, to the right of the Pepsi graphic.
Interested individuals can also mail checks directly to the school, at 277 Ioof Avenue, Gilroy, CA 95020. And note in the memo that the check is being made to support the playground's construction.
How Gilroy Prep School Got its Start
The GPS site is the former El Portal Leadership Academy campus, which was a high school charter institution that closed a few years ago.
Waller, who has taught special education for 26 years, was part of a small group of educators who spent three years advocating for a charter elementary school in Gilroy.
“I wasn’t planning on starting a charter school then, but I walked [up] to the right people at the right time,” she said “We put our feet to the ground and started walking the streets.”
The group walked through neighborhoods and talked to residents, and held informational meetings to educate parents and community members about the benefits of a charter school. They said one was especially needed in Gilroy because many children grow up in Spanish-speaking households and need extra attention in the classroom.
Alcantar, who has a son in kindergarten, said she found GPS from research and through the recommendation of a friend.
“I was really interested in charter schools before my son started there,” she said. “I like how they are really focused on getting kids prepared for high school, and this school is working really hard to get them there.”
GPS was approved by the Gilroy Unified School District in November 2010 and the school was awarded a grant of $675,000 from various agencies within the state, including the California Department of Education.
GPS currently offers classes in grades kindergarten through second, and will add a third grade class next year and a fourth grade one the year after.