Garner Elementary raising funds for fully accessible playground - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Garner Elementary raising funds for fully accessible playground

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NORTH LIBERTY (KWWL) - "There are not any accessible playgrounds in the North Liberty community itself, and only two other accessible playgrounds in the Iowa City Community School District," said Mandy Moellering, a member of the Garner playground committee. That's why Moellering is planning for a new, fully-accessible playground in an empty field next to Garner Elementary, one that will be used by students with and without disabilities.

"Our motto has been, 'we're all in this together, we're going to build a playground for all.'"

Allowing students with disabilities to feel included in recess activities is a vital part of social and cognitive development, according to Doug Van Oort, professor of special education at Kirkwood Community College.

"They need fresh air, exercise, that mental break from the classroom, that time to socialize with their peers, and learn how to play with a little bit less adult supervision and monitoring that all kids get on the playground," Van Oort explained.

However, Oort said these mid-day breaks have been on a downhill slide in recent years, partly due to increasingly stringent federal requirements for classroom achievement.

"One of my complaints today about elementary education in the United States is that we don't have enough recess," Oort said.

Garner's playground will have features similar to the one at Hoover Elementary in Iowa City. It includes several access ramps, as well as stations that provide for more than just physical activity, and a rubberized floor material that's forgiving in case a child would happen to fall. Garner's will have that eventually.

"We are putting in a rubber tile path for Phase 1," said Moellering, "so that kids who are using wheelchairs and walkers will still be able to get to it. It's just that we would like to see the entire surface be a flat surface for those students."

After a $5,000 donation from Target, Moellering said they have about half of the $160,000 they'll need to build the entire playground. If you want to donate to the cause, or volunteer to help build it, you can contact the Garner parent-teacher organization.

Online Reporter - Brady Smith

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