Clemens Primary School students now have a covered play area when rain falls during recess thanks to a canopy donation by the Philomath Frolic and Rodeo. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

In a span of just four days from the time a teacher made a request to the Philomath School Board to the time of installation, Clemens Primary School had a covering to allow students to play outside on rainy days.

The Philomath Frolic and Rodeo’s board of directors stepped forward Monday morning and offered the free use of a 20-by-40-foot canopy. And on the same afternoon, Frolic volunteers and school district maintenance staff spent two to three hours installing it on the north side of the building.

First grade teacher Melissa Mularsky approached School Board members at a Sept. 21 meeting to ask for their blessing for her to pursue the possible rental of a tent so the kids could get outside when Mother Nature chose not to cooperate.

“It’s going to be really, really great to have a space for the kids to go out and move their bodies and breathe some fresh air and take a little break,” Clemens Primary School Principal Abby Couture said Wednesday. “I think we’ll see benefits not just academically but also just socially and emotionally with the kids.”

The Philomath News reported on Mularsky’s request to the School Board in a column published on Sunday.

“It turns out that Chris Workman saw the article and he is part of the Philomath Frolic and they had this tent just sitting in storage,” Couture said. “He talked to the committee of the Frolic and they agreed that we could use the tent through the winter for free.”

The Frolic’s canopy, purchased about five years ago, is used during the organization’s big weekend in July but has also been rented or loaned out for other various needs around the community, such as private parties at the rodeo grounds and Dirt Road Brewing’s annual block party.

Couture said the Frolic even told her that if the tent is damaged, “that’s OK because they need to buy a new one anyway so they might as well put it to use and let the kids be outside. So it was awesome.”

During last week’s meeting, the Frolic and Rodeo had been brought up as a possible avenue to pursue with board member Ryan Cheeke volunteering to help connect Mularsky with Frolic board president Darrell Hinchberger. Things moved fast on Monday with Workman’s call to Couture.

The canopy is situated over a blacktop area just outside the school gymnasium.

“It covers about half of the blacktop out there,” Couture said. “We had them leave the end open for easy access to get there from the gym to the tent and also from the other side the way we normally go. But if we go through the gym out to the tent, the kids don’t have to walk as long in the rain, so we thought we would access it from that side most of the time.” 

The construction of a permanent covered play area at Clemens has been on the school district’s radar for years and the project went out for bid earlier this year. But proposals came in too high to force the project to take a step back, reorganize and prepare another attempt.

Couture said there are plans to go back out for bid in October with extra funds committed to the project.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.