The playground at Caldwell County Elementary School is now accessible to children who would not otherwise be able to enjoy its equipment and share that fun with friends.
Financed through a grant provided by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, part of the playground was given a poured rubber surface, enabling students in wheelchairs or other physical disabilities to get on the playground with their friends.
“This will allow children with physical disabilities greater access to the playground,” said Sam Haulk, the facilities director of the Caldwell County School District. “We feel that the ability to be out with their friends on the playground will be very beneficial to our students, regardless if they have permanent disabilities or short-term issues that would otherwise keep them on the sidewalk.”
CCES Principal Malissa Thomas said that the school had a student last year who was in a wheelchair.
“I just noticed that our playground wasn’t easily accessible for her,” she said. “I reached out to Mr. Haulk and I asked him, ‘What can we do to make this better?’
“We just started brainstorming some ways, and he started searching for grants. He got with Tammie Sanders, the district’s grant writer, and they found this pour-in-place rubber surface grant.”
The project cost about $25,000, of which almost $20,000 was covered by the grant. The rest was provided by the Caldwell County School District Board. It was completed in August.
The playground had been covered with chips of chrome rubber mulch, making it safer when students fall, as opposed to the hard ground or concrete flooring.
“The chrome rubber makes the playground safer from falls, but any student who is either temporarily or permanently using assistance like a wheelchair or a walker or crutches to move around has a lot of trouble moving through chrome rubber,” Sanders said.
“The purpose was so those students who need a solid surface to move around throughout the playground and be with their friends.”
Thomas said the addition of the pour-in-place rubber surface makes the playground adaptable for future students.
“It gives us more of a solid rubbery surface in certain areas,” she said. “It gives us pathways so a student in a wheelchair can get to various areas of our playground.
“For all the students who come after (the student in a wheelchair from last year), we’ll be able to provide a better opportunity to play and to interact and to have our playground equipment more accessible.”