NEW HAVEN — Mason County students just finished their school year on Friday, but thanks to the Robert and Louise Claflin Foundation and one teacher, children who attend New Haven Elementary School already have something to look forward to in the fall.
A new piece of playground equipment will be added that will be inclusive for all students to enjoy.
Stephen Littlepage, president of the Claflin Foundation, and Gary Fields, secretary, recently presented fifth grade teacher Kira Northup and Principal Walter Raynes with a grant check for $7,500. The money, along with local funds, will purchase a Whisper Glide wheelchair accessible swing.
Northup said at the beginning of the school year, she was on recess duty, and began speaking with one of the children with special needs. She asked the student what she liked to do, or was able to do, on the playground. The child replied, “Just sit.”
Once she looked around, Northup said even though the playground equipment is termed “handicap accessible,” the only thing a child who has difficulty with mobility has to do is a tic-tac-toe activity on the side of the playground complex. There is one swing that secures a student inside, but it is made for smaller children. And, to be able to use that swing, an aide has to lift the student in and out.
“There’s just not much interaction,” said Northup. “I wanted children with mobility concerns to be able to interact with their friends.”
That is when Northup began researching and found the Whisper Glide. Modeled much like a glider, the equipment has a bench seat on one side that can hold two or three children or adults. The other side has a drop down ramp that will allow easy access for a child with crutches or a wheelchair. Once a wheelchair enters onto the ramp, it is raised, and the wheelchair is secured. Since the entire platform swings, the wheelchair remains in a level position during the arc.
The problem, Northup said, was that the project total would exceed $10,000. That is when she reached out to the Claflin Foundation and completed a grant application.
Third grader Gracie Hoffman, who depends on her wheelchair at school, said she is excited for the addition.
“I’ll be able to swing with my friends now, and it will be more comfortable,” she said.
Gracie’s mom, Sherill Hoffman, is also pleased with the upcoming purchase.
“It’s great that New Haven Elementary is working to be more inclusive,” she said. “I love it when teachers think outside the box, and go above and beyond.”
Northup said she and Mr. Raynes will be working over the summer to find the best spot for the swing. She said the goal is to have it delivered and erected before students return to classes in August.
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Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at [email protected]