New playground to advance inclusiveness
By Eileen Persike
Students at Crescent Elementary School in Rhinelander will be getting a new and inclusive playground this fall. It is the largest elementary school in the district and also has a diverse population of students, some with mobility needs.
Before discussion on the playground agenda item began at the Operations and Strategic Planning Committee meeting June 14, the parent of a child with disabilities who attends Crescent spoke to the board regarding the difference between accessible and inclusive.
“I asked parents of children with varying disabilities how they would define accessible and inclusive, and these are some of the responses I received,” began Abigail Davidson. “Accessible meaning no obstacles and inclusive meaning everyone can play no matter what limitations they have.”
Another example Davidson stated was having a wheelchair swing, versus surrounding that swing with swings typically found in playgrounds.
“I share these with you, for you to keep in mind as you hear the proposal for the Crescent playground renovation,” Davidson said. “Accessibility is not exactly the same as inclusivity. Our goal should be to make this playground inclusive so that every student, with every ability, can play together with very few obstacles in the way.”
The playground design is a work in progress, but district business manager Bob Thom said the district was looking for approval to move forward so it could be added to the project designer’s calendar.
“When we design a playground with everyone in mind, we are creating an environment where all students can play, interact and grow socially,” said Maggie Peterson, SDR director of learning support. “We want all students at SDR to feel included and engaged in all aspects of their school experience – including recess.”
Superintendent Eric Burke said the extra planning time will be beneficial.
“You have some time to research what is the best playground within reason that works for all kids,” Burke said at the committee meeting. “It shouldn’t be just about your child or my child but for all children to play together in the same space. We’ve seen communities where that happens and I think there are good models for that…that is something I want us to look at, what are all the options to build a playground that is truly inclusive.”
At the full board meeting June 21, the school board gave unanimous approval to the School District of Rhinelander (SDR) to work with a design company to construct a playground that will be used by students of all abilities, at a cost not to exceed $135,463. The bulk of the work and equipment is expected to be paid for with funds from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) grant.