There’s a renovation underway at East Central Elementary; a playground upgrade for special education students that will allow them the space to absorb the warmth of the sunshine while safely exploring the world around them.
Pops of color accent the play area in bright shades of yellow, blue, and purple. Painted flowers, butterflies, bees and trees bring life to the wall next to the playground. There are two types of accessible swings, a small basketball goal, small benches, flower boxes, and a soft artificial turf area complete with a colorful caterpillar tunnel.
One year in the making, the installation of new benches has been a team effort since the beginning. The small wooden benches, that are the perfect size for the students, were created and built by Rome Middle School construction students and their teacher, Jacob Addison.
Lori Smith, speech language pathologist at EC explained, “Before the benches arrived, the kids needed assistance. They either used a walker or the adults helped them. The benches are great because the extra seating is needed.”
She highlighted some of the details of the play area that will work to stimulate the students’ senses and insight curiosity, like the flower boxes that Smith said are sensory boxes meant for the students to put their hands in and feel the flowers and dirt.
There’s just one more piece of the playground to install, and it will make all the difference. It is a soft textured, rubber flooring to cover the current spread of concrete in the play area. Acquiring this piece took an administrative team effort as EC Principal, Dr. Wesley Styles reached out to RCS Special Education Director, Kritzi Kilpatrick, to seek assistance in the acquisition of funds for the flooring that would make the playground accessible to all students with disabilities.
“Some of our children are non-ambulatory,” Kilpatrick explained. “They require a wheelchair or an adaptive stroller. So to get out and play on the ground and access their toys without being confined to their wheelchair is going to promote some of their gross motor skills and promote their ability to explore their environment, and do it in a safe way.”
Fortunately, the funds for the flooring were made possible by grant money.
“We receive federal grant money for needs that are specific to students with disabilities,” Kilpatrick said. “We receive a grant that is a set amount based on the number of students we serve every year.” Kilpatrick said that the flooring costs amounted to $15,000.
Both Smith and Kilpatrick expressed their gratitude for being part of a school system that functions as a family, always promoting and supporting each other.
“It’s a team effort,” Kilpatrick added, “everyone benefits.”
Teachers and administration working together to bring a need to fruition, students helping students, and kids receiving the help and support that they need to develop and thrive…that’s neither the exception nor the rule for RCS. It is just the organic nature of a well-functioning family.