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Local Teacher Raising Money to Build All-Inclusive Playground

Photography provided

project playgroundAs the physical education teacher for Western Primary School, Tricia Harlow knows how important recess is for young students. Not only does it offer a much-needed break from sitting in a classroom, but it’s also a time for positive social interaction. However, for some children attending the school, having an outdoor recess is not an option. Harlow hopes to turn this situation around in the near future.

“I’ve been thinking about the possibility of building an adaptive, fenced-in playground space for handicapped and special education life skills students ever since they began being bussed to us through the Kokomo Area Special Education Cooperative (KASEC),” Harlow says. “Our current playground ascends downhill and goes from blacktop to gravel and then to a thickly mulched area that is impossible to push a wheelchair through. And while our space is safe for general education students, the equipment isn’t accessible for the special needs kids.”

Harlow presented her idea to Jenna Moree, principal of Western Primary School, in the fall of 2018. Bolstered by Moree’s receptiveness, she met with Western School Corporation Superintendent Randy McCracken, who was also positive. Wendi Campbell, KASEC director, has pledged her full support of the project.

“Administration is definitely on board, but the school system does not have the funds for the playground,” Harlow says. “We have to raise the total amount needed before we can break ground and start to build it.”

So far about $72,000 has been raised through various fundraisers, but $120,000 is needed before the construction on the playground can begin. The community has responded by participating in events that range from paying to place flamingos in residents’ yards to student fundraisers where money raised was matched by a few area businesses. Funds have also come from individual donations.

When asked what her wish list for equipment included, Harlow responds with enthusiasm, “Everything would be accessible with a ramp. Besides secure molded bucket swings, it would be wonderful to have the type of swings that face each other so a special needs child could be paired with a general education student. Equipment, where an entire wheelchair could be placed on, would be a must.”

“Ultimately my goal is to create an area where regular classes could rotate having recess with the special needs students. Both would benefit from the interaction. Leadership skills could be developed. If we start on the playground, we can create bridges to other areas of life.”

Donations marked “Attention Project Playground” can be mailed to Western School Corporation, 2600 S. 600 W., Russiaville, IN 46979. To stay updated on the project, visit its Facebook page, All Inclusive Playground Russiaville Indiana.

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