Park Meadows officially opens the school's new all-accessible playground

Park Meadows Elementary School now boasts an accessible and all-inclusive playground.

A grand opening ceremony Tuesday at the school celebrated the completion of the playground.

The $400,000 project was funded through generous donations from the City of Lethbridge, Community Facility Enhancement Program (CFEP), Community Capital Project Grant, community businesses and many other grants (local and provincial). Steady donations from student projects and piggybanks also helped push the project forward.

“It takes a lot of work and a lot of money to make a playground like this,” said Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman, who spoke at Tuesday’s event. “When we do that as a community, when we all work together to make something to share with others, that is a good day.”

The park mimics the southside playground at Henderson Lake, as the northside community will now benefit from a similar park such.

“Congratulations to each and every one of you, because you all contributed to making this park happen,” said Lethbridge-East MLA Maria Fitzpatrick.

Parent Council Chair Holly Debnam added the grand opening culminated two-and-a-half years of hard work.

“It was truly a community effort,” she said. “We are incredibly thankful to so many of you.”

She thanked those who helped collect donations, write grant requests and participated in fundraisers.

“Your handprints are all on this structure behind us.”

Brittney Perry, a compliance reviewer for Alberta Recycling, as on hand to present a $30,000 cheque to the Kiwanis Club of Green Acres and Park Meadows. She added 3,800 tires were recycled in order to make the surface for the new playground.

The all-inclusive playground is another step for Park Meadows, as last year the school built a multisensory room. That room offers children with special needs a place to develop communication and relationship skills by interacting with visual systems, textures, vibrating surfaces, sounds and weighted items to enhance brain development, motor skills and communication.

At about the same time the room was built, Park Meadows was selected to open a specialized Skill Development Program that supports children who have significant delays. The program helps children with multiple physical, sensory, medical, cognitive and behavioural challenges. It is staffed by a teacher and educational assistants who work with children to develop functional and communication skills to enhance their quality of life.

The school knew children in this program could not access the regular playground, and needed a safer place to play. As a result, the school approached the parent community to see if that group would support construction of a wheelchair-accessible playground. The playground would be for children of all abilities, for all of Lethbridge. Wholeheartedly, the community jumped in, and held a popcorn sale that raised $7,000 to begin the process.

The vision grew from adding an all-access playground, to adding the new play space, an outdoor classroom space (and seating for families) saucer swings and a large climbing orb. In the first four months, $25,000 was raised.

As of Jan. 9, 2018, the fundraising goal was reached, as the playground construction commenced in the spring.

Date posted: June 27, 2018

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