Horace Mann Elementary to receive new playground

Horace Mann Elementary to receive new playground
Posted on 04/20/2021
Horace Mann Elementary School will receive a new playground this summerHorace Mann Elementary School will be receiving a new playground set this summer after plans for the project were approved at Monday night’s Board of School Trustees meeting.

The new playground, which will be installed this summer and will be ready for use by the beginning of the 2021–22 school year, will be able to be used by all Horace Mann students, something the current playground set cannot offer according to Horace Mann Essential Skills teacher Macy Phillips.

“It’s just not inclusive for all kids,” Phillips said during the board meeting. “The inclusion piece means that it’s inclusive for all children regardless of their ability, their age, their background, and it gives them the same opportunities to explore and to discover and achieve during play.”

Phillips spoke about a number of issues the current playground set poses to both students and staff alike during the board meeting.

“The playground we have right now, one of the bigeest things is it’s not wheelchair accessible,” Phillips said. “With our essential skills program, we have many kids that do use adaptive equipment, whether it’s a wheelchair, a walker, a stander, and then we have many other kids that have physical disabilities. And so, the lack of ramps and the major step-off and drop-offs that we have, the concrete not being even, the mulch, we have major holes out there, and that causes some major problems for them because we have many kids that fall or they’re not able to use the playground independently. So that’s one of the biggest things with the playground, is that we learn through play, and so if someone has to be with them every step of the way and they’re not able to be independent, then they’re really not learning to do things for themselves.”

While the lack of inclusivity has been challenging enough on its own, various safety concerns have also proved to be an obstacle with the current playground area, noting how the fencing has needed to be zip-tied in order to keep students from climbing through gaps and leaving the playground. Phillips also said the mulch in the playground area has caused problems for students with adaptive equipment and physical disabilities as well as those with sensory processing disorders.

Though there will be many notable features the new playground will offer, such as ramps and canopies, perhaps the biggest highlight will be the flooring, a poured-in-place rubber surface. The surfacing constitutes nearly the same amount of the cost as the actual playground equipment, but that investment was essential to best meet the accessibility and safety needs for the facility.

Business Manager Scott Bumgardner shared that, pending the approval of the proposal during the meeting, Bendix Corporation will vote to approve a $50,000 donation to the new playground project. Bumgardner stated that with the donation from Bendix, funding from Medicaid would cover the rest of the project cost. The total budget for the project, quoted at $156,897, was approved unanimously by the board.

“This is no cheap playground we’re having to be able to meet these needs,” Bumgardner said during the board meeting. “And, with Bendix’s donation, it really makes it possible.”

However, above just meeting the physical needs of the students with the facility, Phillips added that a new playground will mean so much more than that.

“We don’t really use our playground just to let off steam and to take a break, but we use that to learn,” Phillips said. “It’s a major part of our day, and to get something that could be inclusive for all kids and be accessible for our kids would be just a huge step for them to show them that they are included in our school and in our corporation.”

Photo of Horace Mann new playground rendering

Photo of Horace Mann new playground rendering

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