Old, rusty playground for special needs children needs $130K replacement, school says

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Old, rusty playground for special needs children needs $130K replacement, school says

A small school in northeast Calgary is applying for grants and stumping for donations to try to replace its playground with one that's more suitable for children with complex learning and behavioural issues.

The Children's Village School needs to raise about $100,000 to replace its aging equipment with a playground staff say will help students release anger, calm them down or just give them a place to have fun.

About 70 students attend the elementary school in the northeast community of Renfrew. It's part of the Calgary Board of Education, which provides teachers and contracts Woods's Homes to provide therapeutic programming and support for students.

The playground isn't popular with the students. "I would rate it three and a half stars out of five," said 11-year-old student Carter Larocque. "It's all old and rusted," said Grade 6 student Harmony Arbeau. 

The pre-kindergarten to Grade 6 students face a variety of challenges: many are in care, come from low-income families, and have emotional, social, or behavioural issues, or developmental delays.

"We try to bring students in and teach them the skills that they're missing around emotional regulation and social skills and the skills they need to be really successful learners," said principal Melanie Clark.

"And once they've mastered those skills and are in a great place, then we're able to return them to their community schools most of the time and so we get new students in."

No active parent council

For all these reasons the school doesn't have an active parent council to champion its fundraising efforts.

Regardless, staff have been pushing ahead, applying for grants and appealing for donations to fund a new playground.

 

"We have a really cool hammock, so they can swing back and forth. We have some spinning things [because] the kids really enjoy that spinning motion," says Cayly DeMerchant, team leader for Woods Homes.

DeMerchant says being able to keep within close reach of the kids is also important.

"We have a lot of entry points so they can get off and on really easily as well as the counsellors and the teachers being able to monitor."

Expected to cost $130,000

While the design looks similar to other newer playgrounds, staff say it's the way it will be used that will be different.

"If we know a student regulates through their vestibular senses, they will need swings, spinning, and rocking movements to support them," said Christel Mueller, a learning leader.

"We will also use it to teach and practice social skills, which many of our students struggle with due to impulsivity."

The new build is estimated to cost about $130,000. So far they've raised nearly $35,000.

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