Students try out some of the new playground equipment Oct. 6.

Students try out some of the new playground equipment Oct. 6.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Village Oaks Elementary has a playground after 2 years without it

By: Charity Meier | Novi Note | Published October 13, 2022


NOVI — Children at Village Oaks Elementary School, 23333 Willowbrook Drive in Novi, screamed with delight as they ran outside to enjoy a recess on their new playground following a ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 6.

After nearly two years without a playground, the school now boasts a new and modern playground to enjoy.   

The playground features slides that are built into a hill; a climbing wall; two gaga ball pits, one of which is accessible to children with disabilities; swings; two different play structures; and a vast variety of other equipment that is set on a soft, faux-turf lawn. A sign is located by each piece of equipment with the name of the equipment and instructions for games that can be played there. The playground has been moved back from where it once sat to an area that had been an empty field.   

“They’re so happy. It’s honestly like they don’t even remember not having it,” said Jen Loiselle, the president of the school’s Parent Teacher Organization, the Village Oaks Interested Citizens and Educators. “My kids have been so happy. They ride their bikes over in their free time and play.”

She said that because the school is located within the Village Oaks subdivision, the playground doubles as a community park and is often packed.

“It’s more than just the school playground. It’s everyone’s playground,” Loiselle said.

Loiselle said the playground is completely different than before.

“I like how it is just, like, a lot of new stuff, and it is different from all the playgrounds around Novi, and it’s unique, because most playgrounds wouldn’t have a rope that you have to climb to ring a bell, there wouldn’t be a parkour course, or one of those spinny things, or a gaga pit,” said Brayden Loiselle, 9, a fourth grader.

“I like the big slide. The red, big slide,” said Noelle MacKinder, 7, a second-grade student.  “(The playground) is nice,” she said as she proudly gave it two thumbs-up.

The school’s original playground was torn down in November 2020 while a large-scale construction project added four new kindergarten classrooms, and the district had planned to have a new playground installed by the 2021-22 school year.

“Because we extended the building with new classrooms, that necessitated doing something with the playground,” said George Sipple, the district’s public relations person.

However, the project was pushed back numerous times because the playground equipment was backordered due to the pandemic. As a result, the kids were not able to have a proper outdoor recess.

The VOICE purchased a few pieces of equipment for the students to be able to use this past year. However, much of the equipment was not designed for long-term use and did not survive the school year. The students were able to use basketball hoops that the PTO had purchased for them.

Brayden Loiselle said that before the new playground there was really nothing for kids to do but play soccer. This year during the interim, the students were treated to inflatable bounce houses.

“It was hard,” said new Principal Katy Dinkelmann of the time the students had to go without a playground this year.

Dinkelmann stressed that research shows that kids need to play. She said it helps them to develop social, team-building and sharing skills, among many others.

“A lot of other things happen out here besides just swinging,” Dinkelmann said.