Iowa parents, teachers fundraise for 'inclusive' playground

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NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa (AP) — Parents and staff of an elementary school in eastern Iowa have raised nearly $60,000 in the past three years to build a playground accessible to kids with physical disabilities.

Students with disabilities have few play options available at North Bend Elementary in North Liberty, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported .

"From a teacher standpoint, it's sad to see, because we are doing everything we can in the classroom to make sure kids feel involved and included," said Erin Sheets, a preschool teacher at the elementary school. "Then, when we are outside for recess, the physical structure limits that."

So parents and staff raised thousands of dollars through grant writing, restaurant profit shares, coin drives and parent-teacher group fundraisers for an "inclusive" playground, according to Christine Mundt, a parent.

The playground would have more accessibility beyond what's required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. It will include ramps and a seesaw that are wheelchair-accessible. A "cozy dome" will serve as a plastic igloo that will be useful for kids who can become overwhelmed.

Mundt said the project will benefit all students, including her daughter who doesn't have a disability.

"We need to teach inclusiveness to all children," she said. "It does not matter what the children's abilities are. They are all equal and need to have the same opportunities. To see the children playing side by side will definitely benefit my daughter in the long run."

Jennifer Bartlett's son, Nathan, is a 6-year-old kindergartner with cerebral palsy. Bartlett said Nathan moves around in a wheelchair or a gait trainer, which is a type of walker. She said the school already does a great job of working with Nathan at recess.

"We can tell he loves school, and we think a lot of it is just being around the other kids," said Bartlett. "It's just going to be really nice if he can play with the other kids."

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Information from: Iowa City Press-Citizen, http://www.press-citizen.com/


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