ELIZABETHTOWN — Bladen County Schools held its’ first Playground Task Force meeting on Thursday to organize around understanding requirements and recommendations for playgrounds set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as to discuss additional funding streams for playground equipment that would be accessible to all students.
Reida Roberts, the Exceptional Children’s director, helped to spearhead the committee and said that they will be meeting quarterly to brainstorm ideas and come up with a more detailed design plan for playground accessibility. Committee members include Robert Heavenridge, Student Services coordinator; Roger Carroll, School Board member; Vincent Rozier, School Board member, Priscilla Brayboy, Bladen Lakes Primary School principal; Laura Hall, Exceptional Children’s lead teacher; Pam Stephens, lead teacher; and Valerie Newton, Public Information officer.
The group researched playground-design best practices, and opportunities for community investment and stewardship of school playgrounds. They visited Bladen Lakes Primary School, Elizabethtown Primary School and Elizabethtown Middle School, surveying each play space for adaptive and modified play equipment. Potential additions include adaptive swings and play areas that focus on sensory exposure aimed at helping children with autism.
Brayboy shared that a community member donated an adaptive basketball goal for her schools’ playground and hopes to have it installed by the start of school. The school also anticipates having a circular bungee swing and an adaptive swing seat added to the schools existing swing set frame. These swings provide therapy and sensory integration for children with special needs. The PTO at Elizabethtown Primary School purchased and installed two adaptive swings for the school several years ago.
Hall, an EC teacher at Elizabethtown Middle School, reported on plans to build a sensory garden at her school.
“Bladen We Care and Saint Christopher’s Episcopal Church have offered to help with the garden fencing and raised planting beds,” she said. “I’ve been scouting yard sales for old metal pots, pans, and spoons to add to the sensory component of the garden to make sound and music. We’ll have raised beds planted with herbs and vegetables that students can sample to aide in their sense of taste.”
Roberts talked about maintaining the playgrounds both as an open space for kids to enjoy and as a place to stage performances. “The playground would be a great place to hold a fall festival,” she said. “Even a spring festival could be held outside if the weather permits.”
The vital work of the Playground Task Force and its recommendations to the Board of Education is just the beginning of their work to ensure all children in Bladen County Schools have safe and engaging play spaces in their own school.