Georgetown Elementary’s new playground for all dedicated

 

GEORGETOWN – Adriana Jennings was a little bit under the weather last Friday.

So, she didn’t actively take part in Sept. 8 formal dedication of Georgetown Elementary School’s new playground.

But the 7-year-old second grader whose special needs were the inspiration for what blossomed into a massive all-inclusive makeover was enjoying playground fun earlier in the week.

“I came out yesterday (Sept. 7) just to kind of observe. It was my first time actually out seeing all of the kids playing up close,” said Sara Heinicke, a certified occupational therapy assistant for Georgetown Elementary and three other schools whose initial inquiry spurred the project. “Adriana was able to access a piece of equipment that was here before but it was too high. The Schell Brothers company actually lowered it so now she has access just because it was lowered. And she crawled through the tunnel and went down the slide about 12 times. She looked up at me and said, ‘I love our new playground!’ And those few words right there … this means a lot.”

The playground was designed by Indian River High School students Sara Saylor, Ricky Parrett and Samuel Rojas – all 2017 graduates – as part of a STEM Capstone project.

New playground equipment is designed to accommodate all students, including those with disabilities. It features specially-engineered wood fibers, which provide an absorbent cushion base and make the entire playground accessible to those in wheelchairs.

The project was funded by generous donations from B&C Elevators, DIY Company, Schell Brothers, Baker’s Hardware, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Haaga, Dirtworks/Clint Fluarty, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Wilgus and a private donor.

Labor for the project was donated by Schell Brothers. Volunteers from Schell Brothers and the Georgetown Elementary School community installed most of the equipment during a massive day-long volunteer event June 10.

Indian River School District Superintendent Mark Steele considers the project a truss in bridging the district and the entire community.

“I think this is the one event that started pulling everything together, making our district a community,” said Mr. Steele. “When you look at the process the people went through to get this project completed, starting off with an idea. It started off with actually having students from the opposite end of the school district work on this design – in a program they were involved in at Indian River High School – working with the administration, teachers and community members from the Georgetown area to make this project come through.”

“For me as a superintendent the part that makes it remarkable is this project is a combination of both ends of our school district and our community, and our administration and our teachers,” said Mr. Steele. “I can’t tell you how proud of you I am. It is great to know that when you walk up here and see this, that we had our students, our Indian River School District students actually design something this beautiful.”

Neil Stong, principal at Georgetown Elementary, noted that the project started as an inquiry by a single staff member, Sara Heinicke, who inquired about making the playground more conducive for special-needs students.

“The inquiry became a dream to create a play area with state-of-the-art equipment that all children could enjoy,” said Mr. Stong. “The dream was accomplished through efforts of some concerned staff members and generous business partners who helped make this all possible.”

Mr. Stong extended special thanks to the Schell Brothers company. “None of this would have been possible without the many hours of free labor, consultation and financial support by the company that they provided,” he said.

Special thanks were also directed to IRSD engineering instructor Jordan O’Boyle and the three Class of 2017 members: Ricky Parrott, Sara Saylor and Samuel Rojas, who took on the project.

“They did a wonderful job of including equipment pieces that can be enjoyed by all of our students,” said Mr. Stong. “Georgetown Elementary is a school for everyone and this playground is a symbol of that spirit.”

Ricky Parrett, who is attending Delaware Technical Community College, was on hand for the dedication. Sara Saylor is attending Mississippi State; Samuel Rojas is at Boston University.

Heather Haaga, whose family was among the generous donors, addressed students enjoying the playground facilities at the dedication.

“Your job is to play on this equipment and have a great time. And when you grow up and somebody comes to you and says, ‘We need another playground for another generation,’ then it’s your turn to say, ‘OK, we will help raise the money and build you a playground,’” said Ms. Haaga. “That is the message I leave with you.”

The project, which received IRSD board of education’s blessing March 27, was covered entirely through approximately $70,000 in generous donations so there was no cost to the district or IRSD taxpayers.

As students experienced new swings, the Cloverleaf Sand Table, interactive Fun Fone and sign language and English to Spanish panels, the Pull Along, the Fontana and other fun equipment, Adriana and her mom Amanda Robinson looked on. Adriana will be back enjoying the playground when she feels better.

“It is unbelievable; the lengths people will go for one student to make sure that that student has just as much advantage as others,” said Ms. Robinson. “Previously, they did put in a special swing. I mean they have always helped her and tried to do as much as they can but this really allows her to be more independent and do more on her own. Like yesterday (Sept. 7) Adriana was going through the tunnel by herself. It is definitely heart-warming to know that my child is just as important as every other student. And she can feel like she is a part of them.”

The dedication was somewhat emotional for Ms. Heinicke, who is a COTA for Georgetown Middle School, Georgetown Kindergarten Center and North Georgetown Elementary in addition to Georgetown Elementary.

“Like Mr. Steele said, this was a community thing. To have people from businesses, schools, students and high school students … really pour their hearts into this and make this come to life for us is truly amazing,” said Ms. Heinicke.

“If we are going to be a strong community, that is what we have to do,” said Mr. Steele. “On behalf of the district, it is a very proud day.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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