National News

49-year-old structure comes down as elementary school opens equal access playground

Posted August 11

— Kids who attend Midway Elementary in Jefferson County have a long anticipated jungle gym waiting for them at the start of the school year.

But the jungle gym and other equipment recently installed are not just any kind of playground; rather, it's an equal-access playground.

"Before we had a 49-year-old structure that was wood and you'd get slivers," Midway PTO President Charries Bateman says. "It had bees that were nesting in it that we just really couldn't get rid of."

The new playground is catered to all children including those who have special needs.

"Now all the kids can play. Not just select kids but everyone. For me that's important," Midway Principal Gary Comstock says.

The project was expected to take 6-10 years and cost some $60,000. Instead, it took two years and cost $93,000.

At the beginning, the PTO had only $4,000 and contributions from Jefferson Education Foundation, LIVE Foundation, CHC Foundation, the City of Menan, Mountain View Hospital, Upper Valley Realtor and the donors covered the extra costs.

"We started with just our little fundraisers that we do with the Halloween carnival and a daddy daughter dance," Bateman says. "It will be nice because we've had the special needs kids at this school for over 20 years and they've never had accommodating playground equipment."

The Jefferson County School District 251 occupational therapist was involved in selecting the equipment.

"She chose each and every piece of the playground for a specific purpose to accommodate a specific need for a specific child," Bateman says.

The school's former PTO president was an integral part in getting the playground for the school even though her kids no longer attend the elementary.

"Just because they're not actually my child doesn't mean I don't love them. I really feel like they deserve a good playground as well," Mikelle Bronson says.

Although the playground looks complete, phase two of the project begins this fall. Administrators say instead of the wood chips which currently cover the ground, kids will be running on wheelchair-accessible rubber tile surfacing.

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