Students at Pine Tree ISD’s Birch Elementary School had reason to celebrate Tuesday evening with the unveiling of a new indoor slide, a project two years in the making.

Executive Principal Derrick Conley thanked sponsors during the celebration event, such as Peters Chevrolet, Kona Ice, Pro-Tech Services Air Conditioning, families, parents and others.

“It is kind of for celebrations,” Conley said.

The slide is an incentive for elementary students to exemplify good behavior and accomplish goals. It is also big enough and strong enough for adults to use.

As soon as Conley ended his speech and kicked off the celebration, about 100 children rushed the ramp leading to the tall spiral slide named “Big Blue.” The idea came about two years ago, thanks to a job applicant for the district adding “Ron Clark Academy Slide Certified” to their resume.

“I started asking about that,” Conley said, and the idea went from there.

The Ron Clark Academy is a nonprofit middle school in Southeast Atlanta which has an incentive slide as part of their acclaimed learning environment.

The slide at Birch cost $22,000 and the district needed to fundraise. Peters Chevrolet donated $10,000 and the rest came from local businesses, parents and fundraising.

“We try to teach our kids, instill hard work and respect,” Conley said, encouraging students to show growth in those areas. Children will be able to earn trips down the slide with good behavior and work. He hopes to use the slide to reward classrooms, use at assemblies, help new students, celebrate the last day of school and more.

“Coming into a new school is kind of a scary thing so what better way to have a good first day than to go down the slide,” Conley said.

Conley invited students and families that have gone on to middle school to come back and enjoy the slide during the celebration since so many helped raise funds for it.

Each child waited their turn, some more excited while others’ excitement gave way to some timidness at the height. In the end, the children were all smiles and giggles.

“It’s higher than you think,” fourth grader Parker Montandon said after his second trip down the slide. So far, the slide is his favorite part of the school year. Second grader Haley Montandon loves the slide but still maintains that “learning new things” is her favorite part of school.

Their mother, Bonnie Montandon, said she has been hearing about the slide and the anticipation of it for a long time.

“We’ve seen pictures and videos on Facebook,” she said. “They’re so excited.”

PTA Treasurer Katie Fisher brought her two children to check out the new slide as well. She believes it is a great incentive for students to work hard and to show respect.

“My son is a second grader and my daughter is four, so she won’t be here for a while but she’s already excited,” Fisher said.

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Courtney Stern is a public safety reporter covering a wide range of topics. She grew up in Baltimore and later earned a journalism degree from the University of Miami. Stern moved to East Texas from Iowa with her husband and two dogs, Pebbles and Bam Bam.