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Forming the Future: Playground project draws together Cheverus School community

Students play on the structures in the new playground at the Cheverus School in Malden. "It was really a community effort," said Cheverus School principal Tom Arria. Pilot photo/courtesy Cheverus School

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MALDEN -- Construction of a new playground at Cheverus School is almost complete, thanks to the combined efforts of faculty, students, parent volunteers, and the local community.

According to Cheverus principal, Tom Arria, the idea for the playground stemmed from a recent increase in enrollment in their preschool and kindergarten classes. He said five years ago there were only 17 three and four-year-olds enrolled, whereas now there are 45 three-year-olds and 72 four-year-olds.

In addition to these classes, the school also has a summer program called Summer Fun School, whose participants would also benefit from a playground.

"We really wanted a space for the kids," Arria said, speaking to the Pilot Nov. 15.

A primary donor to the project was Lester Morovitz, a local philanthropist and owner of Malden Trans, Inc. Morovitz requested that the playground be named Peggy's Park to honor his wife, Dorothy "Peggy" Morovitz, who died of pancreatic cancer in November 2017 at the age of 76.

Help came from other sources in the community, as well. A fence company gave the school a discounted rate to close off the area. Students' parents stepped up to garner support, make arrangements, and participate in the construction.

"It was really a community effort," Arria said.

Robert "Bob" Debuque has three children at Cheverus School and coaches the girls' basketball team. When Debuque, who works in construction, heard about the project, he contacted friends and colleagues to help make arrangements and enlist volunteers.

"It was nice to be able to help them out. I've got a lot of respect for the teachers and the people that run that school," Debuque told the Pilot Nov. 15.

Another parent, Michael Bartlett, who has done other work around the school in the past, has been instrumental in laying down the cement and assembling benches that will allow teachers to sit while they supervise the children.

To make way for the playground, during the last weeks of summer, they demolished the asphalt in a corner of the schoolyard and landscaped it with loam and sod. Debuque arranged for a frontend loader to level the area at no cost to the school. He and other volunteers helped remove large rocks and trees. Even Arria pitched in, cutting away dead trees and planting new ones.

"When you work in a Catholic school, you roll up your sleeves and you do what needs to be done," Arria said.

The principal also supervised seventh- and eighth-grade students who helped cart away tree branches.

"I think Mr. Arria did a wonderful job putting everything together, from the fundraising, to try to get everyone to work together to get it done, to helping out himself," Debuque said.

Now near completion, the jungle gym includes poles, slides, and activity centers. The structure stands on 7.5 tons of rubber mulch surrounded by heavy plastic timbers.

"I'm delighted with the way it turned out," Arria said.

The last features to be installed will be the benches and memorial bricks, for which the school is currently holding a fundraiser.

"Every time I drive by it puts a smile on my face," Debuque said.

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