Leap Day fund-raiser lifts playground project

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By Jenna McKenna

The Cedar Key School PTO and the clammers and oystermen of Cedar Key hosted a fund-raising dinner Friday night in City Park to get the school a little closer to the much-needed new playground and exercise gym.

Despite temperatures in the forties, the little gulfside park was packed with clammers, oystermen, parents, kids and visitors looking for a great meal.

Organizers said more than 6,000 pounds of clams and 12 tubs of oysters were donated by local clam farmers, and steamed and served to the chilly, grateful multitudes.

"We got a little closer this time," said organizer Sue Colson, projects director for the Cedar Key Aquaculture Association.

The dinner made about $3,500 for the playground project.

Substantial donations have been made already, including $10,000 from the Cedar Key Lions and some individual donations of up to $1,000.

The Oystermen's Association has given $1,500, as has the Cedar Key Aquaculture Association.

Organizer Sue Penney said the PTO, which is the fund-raising body for the exercise gym project, has already collected about $29,000 toward its goal of $40,000.

The gym itself will cost about $30,000, and the site preparation, including substantial erosion repair, is expected to run about $10,000.

"We hope to have raised all the money by the time the Arts Festival rolls around," Penney said.

The fitness gym must be built for the elementary and middle school kids in response to an unfunded mandate from the state of Florida that nearly doubles the amount of physical education they receive per school week.

Cedar Key School has only one full-time phys ed instructor, Coach Aaron Haldeman, who has been able to increase his class time with kids, but not double it.

The school's plan is to have Haldeman train classroom teachers in some phys ed principals, in order to guide them when they are supervising the playground during recess.

During recess, students will be conducted during some periods of structured play on the fitness gyms, including pull-ups, crunches, climbing, and other aerobic and fitness-building exercises.

The new gym equipment is needed because most of the school's old playground equipment was either removed and scrapped after the cleanup from the 2002 fire that destroyed the school, or has simply aged past its useful life span.

For more information, contact Cedar Key School at 352-543-5223.

Donations may be made by check to Cedar Key PTO with memo to Playground Fund.