Stratford SEPTA, which brings together parents, families, teachers, school administrators, students, and friends who are interested in special education and children with special needs, has received approval from the town planning and zoning office for an ADA-accessible preschool playground at Second Hill Lane Elementary School.
The bulk of funding for the HOPE (Have Opportunities, Play Early) Playground Project is being provided by a federal grant. In addition, Stratford SEPTA will be raising approximately $25,000 for a ramp that will make the playground fully accessible.
Why a preschool ADA accessible playground? While the current playground at Second Hill Lane was designed for elementary aged students, the Early Learning Services program, which serves 119 preschool aged children this year, is based at the school.
Children with physical disabilities and other special needs from across the town are placed in the ELS program, and some of these children are unable to enjoy the existing playground without teacher assistance.
According to the Public Playground Safety Handbook published by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, a key in playground planning is the age range of children, since children at different ages and stages of development have different needs and abilities.
For example, children aged 2 to 5 years are best served by slides limited to a certain height, simple ladders, and swings of a smaller size.
Between 2001 and 2008, most injuries on public playground equipment were associated with climbing equipment (53%), swings (19%), and slides (17%), CPSC research has found. The five kindergarten classes at Second Hill Lane will also make use of the new playground.
How will it be funded? American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is being used to cover most of the project’s costs.
These one-time stimulus funds are distributed to school districts by the state and are designed for short-term investments that may lead to sustainable long-term benefits (as opposed to expenditures the district may not be able to sustain once the funds are expended).
The funding was obtained through the assistance of Pat Naylor, Stratford Public Schools’ grants and early childhood administrator.
Why are more funds needed? The ARRA IDEA funding is enough to build a playground under Americans with Disabilities Act standards in time for the 2011-12 school year, but without a ramp it will not be 100 percent accessible. An estimated $25,000 is needed to build a customized ramp that would make the playground fully accessible.
How can the community help? Stratford SEPTA will be planning several fundrasing events, including a Trike-a-Thon to coincide with National Playground Safety Week in April, a name-the-playground contest, and a Dining for a Cause event at 99 Restaurant on Barnum Avenue Cut-Off (Wed., April 27, 5:30-10 a.m.).
The public is welcome to attend a planning meeting on March 21; for details email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stratford SEPTA, whose tagline is Support, Education, Inspiration -- encourages parents, families, and educators to share their experiences and perspectives, and helps families realize the importance of their role in the community. It provides parents with information on navigating the special education system and works to increase the community’s understanding of exceptional children’s abilities to reach their full potential.
The group also aims to inspire by enriching the lives of children and families though educational and social opportunities, celebrating the individuality and unique abilities of all children.
Stratford SEPTA meets the second Wednesday of each month at Johnson House at Stratford Academy, with the next meeting on March 9 to feature potty training tips for both special needs and typically developing children.