Shelton's Sunnyside School playground gets a makeover

SHELTON — The Sunnyside School community gathered this week to celebrate the completion of their playground — fundraising for which began some six years ago. 

A formal ribbon cutting was held Tuesday at the recently renovated playground and basketball court at the rear of the school property. Students sang the school song to celebrate the event after remarks from first-year Principal Darla Lussier, Mayor Mark Lauretti and Superintendent Ken Saranich. 

“This is amazing,” said Dr. Bruce Sofferman, owner of Shelton-based Smile Dental Center and chair of the Sunnyside Playground Building Committee. 

“It was always a dream of mine to get this playground done,” Sofferman added. “The future of Shelton is these kids … to see them with a beautiful playground, a beautiful basketball court, it is everything and more." 

Lauretti told the youngsters in attendance he himself was a Sunnyside School student in his youth. 

“It was a long, long time ago,” Lauretti said, laughing, about his elementary days, “and we didn’t have a playground like this.” 

Lauretti praised the work of Sofferman, Parks and Recreation Director Ron Herrick, the Sunnyside School PTO and former Principal Amy Yost, now principal at Cook Hill Elementary School in Wallingford, who attended Tuesday’s celebration. 

“(Yost) played a very important part in the way it all worked out," Lauretti said. “Personally, I want thank her for her involvement,” Lauretti said as students cheered “Thank you Mrs. Yost.” 

Yost, who was invited to the celebration by Lauretti, called the completed playground “amazing. 

“This was six years in the making … it’s a dream come to light, and so many hands were part of this,” Yost said. “This is for the community. A gift for everyone. I have moved on, but to be able to come back and see it is amazing.” 

Lauretti called Sofferman the spark that ignited this project, funds for which came from the city with a $20,000 donation from the Sunnyside PTO.  

"Sunnyside students along with the Shelton community will reap the benefits of this project for years to come,” Lussier said. 

She said students have been “happily playing on the new equipment and are so grateful for this updated outside play area. It means so much to them and the entire Sunnyside community. I know it will be put to good use for years to come.” 

The Board of Aldermen had approved $130,000 to begin the work, which included construction of a fully ADA compliant playground, relocation of the basketball courts and construction of a pavilion for an outdoor classroom. The outdoor classroom, Lauretti said, could be built for next school year. 

Lauretti said the project, which will also include the extension of a roadway connecting the present drop off circle to the roadway that passes alongside the ball field, would cost an estimated $250,000 when finished. The work is being paid for through the Parks and Recreation budget. 

“Before COVID, (Sofferman) came to me and asked to do a playground, a handicapped accessible playground,” Lauretti said. “We got together and talked about it. As COVID hit and things shut down, we were not deterred, our discussions went on, and this concept came to life.” 

Lauretti said the playground area remains under control of the city — not the Board of Education — because of its proximity to the ball fields and basketball courts already on site. 

“What an addition to the whole Sunnyside School complex,” Lauretti said. “This is a great project. This is a great day for the youth of our community. Many generations of kids will get to enjoy the activities down here at Sunnyside.”