ATLANTA - The soccer fields tucked behind E. Rivers
Elementary have been called Peachtree Battle's very own field of dreams. But
the, um, throne needs improvement.
Principal David White points to a green and white
porta-pottie: "Yep, that's it. We have hundreds of kids come here to play
recreational soccer. On evenings and weekends, that's it. They've been using
that porta-pottie for a long time, several years."
Atlanta public schools didn't pay for the field, and
they're not paying for this new field house now under construction. As
budgets tighten, private
funding for public school projects is becoming more common and more
"Sometimes people not involved with the school, don't
understand why Atlanta Public Schools doesn't pay for something like this,"
parent Brittain Prigge said. "Frankly, it's because there's just not enough
money to go around."
Principal White adds, "These facilities we're talking
about: the soccer fields, field house, concession stands, those are over and
above what a regular elementary school program should expect to have. Those
are things that benefit our children, certainly, and the community at large
in a way that the board of education isn't responsible for funding."
That's where public-private partnerships enter the
equation. An Atlanta Public Schools spokesman says the relationships between
communities and schools have been in place for decades. Sometimes the groups
provide volunteer services, but other times, it is
financial. As the needs of families and schools grow, they are leaning
on those relationships more. Every school has at least one partnership now
in place (with a faith-based organization, community group, or business).
For E. Rivers Elementary, it includes Peachtree Road United Methodist
Charles Akin, Director of Sports Recreation at the
church, runs the soccer league that brings 2500 kids a year to the fields.
"I think this is the best example of church and state working together.
They're both working in an effort to serve their community."
The school's active PTA spearheaded the original plans to
build the field and has been fundraising for the new field house for several
years. "This school is part of the neighborhood. This field is such a place
of gathering," parent Brittan Prigge said.
Architect Keith Summerour designed the new building to
match the Peachtree Battle area. He tapped into his contacts in construction
to donate materials and labor. "It raises the spirits, particularly in these
times, for everyone," Summerour said.
It has been a successful formula. They found a way to
build a new field house without a single penny from the school board. It
also provides a steady stream of income for the future. The new building
includes an area for concessions. The money made there will go back to the
PTA, and then back to E. Rivers Elementary.
"This has been a real culmination of that
energy. The return to public schools and the return to pride in your
local public school," Principal White said.