Upper Arlington News

New Barrington playground will accommodate all

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This artist's rendering shows what the new ADA-accessible playground at Barrington Elementary School will look like when it is completed. Construction is expected to start in June.
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Accommodating all children is the goal behind the Barrington Welcome Playground.

Plans call for a colorful "cocoon" swing for those with autism, plus ramps and chair swings and jungle gyms to welcome every child.

Parent Aimee White said the school community and several local organizations donated more than $150,000 to build the new playground at Barrington Elementary School in Upper Arlington. Construction will begin in June.

"Barrington houses the districtwide multiple disabilities kindergarten-through-second-grade program," she said. "Many of these students currently do not have a playground that can accommodate their needs.

"With the advice of the Barrington teachers, the multiple disabilities teacher and the expertise of Patty Hobson with Playworld, we designed a playground that fits the needs of our Barrington community and the Upper Arlington community," she said.

White said it will be Upper Arlington's first ADA-accessible playground.

"After many revisions to the plans, we feel this is the perfect playground," she said.

She said the play set is ramped from ground level, allowing a child in a wheelchair, walker or stroller to access an aero-glider that will have space for several youngsters. Also included in the plans are several sensory panels, eight varying climbers, ADA steps, slides and bucket swing chairs that provide more support for children with limitations.

"One other exciting element is the addition of the poured-in-place rubber matting," White said. "This will allow the children to access the playground more months out of the year, especially during inclement weather conditions. It will also allow children with special needs to have a solid surface to move around the playground safely."

White has four children, two with special needs.

"The project began with a few families coming forward a couple of years ago with concerns about the current playground," she said. "My husband, Bob, and I were approached by our principal, Jason Fine, and we accepted the honor of the co-chairs on the spot. We organized an executive committee and a fundraising committee to complete the task. All those individuals involved were instrumental in the success of this project."

Fine said he was approached by a couple of Barrington families in 2011 about the possibility of replacing the existing play set, which was installed in 1989.

"We took the idea to our PTO and a playground committee was soon formed," he said. "With the help of this incredibly dedicated committee and input from our kindergarten teachers, we were able to design our current rendering."

He said the playground is an exciting venture, not only for Barrington students but also for the community.

"We wanted to design an inclusive space that is accessible to all children, regardless of limitations," he said. "We stress the importance of community at Barrington and feel that our new Welcome Playground will be another way to build relationships and foster friendships among our entire student body, as well as the community at large."

White said most of the old playground will be torn down except for a swing set and all perimeter landscaping, trees and fencing.

"The school district will recycle some of the current playground equipment as replacement parts for other playgrounds in the district," she said.

She said the fundraising effort was extremely successful.

"We exceeded our goal of $150,000 in just a few short months," she said. "It was a collaboration of financial support from Barrington PTO and families, UA community members, city of Upper Arlington, Northwest Kiwanis, Upper Arlington Rotary Foundation, Upper Arlington Education Foundation and Upper Arlington Community Foundation. Our largest donation was $25,000 from Northwest Kiwanis."

White said the committee decided not to purchase an installation option so it could maximize the funds toward the actual playground.

She said Leadership Upper Arlington, the Upper Arlington Fire Department, the city of Upper Arlington and Upper Arlington City Schools will all help to coordinate and supply manpower to build the playground in June.

Northwest Kiwanis Club Chairman George Falkenbach said Kiwanis International is "a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time."

He said the question was never whether the Northwest Kiwanis Club would support the project, but "to what degree we could support the project."

"Our service committee's recommendation to the board of a platinum-plus contribution was viewed not as a one-time contribution, but as a contribution that would last for years to come," he said. "It is our pleasure to contribute to the project."

The Upper Arlington Rotary Club and the Upper Arlington Northwest Women of the Year Fund donated $8,100 toward the project.

Members Steve Lichtblau and Mary Ann Krauss presented two checks to Fine, White and parent Katie Ryan Feb. 12 at Barrington.

Ginny Barney, co-chairwoman of the Northwest Women of the Year Committee, said her group comes together for a luncheon each year.

"We designate a charity at the luncheon and this was something that spoke to us as a real need in our community," she said. "Everyone gave generously."

White said she is looking forward to bringing her children to the new playground.

"It is a unique opportunity for my children and for the community to have a playground where all children feel welcome," she said. "All children can play side by side, regardless of their limitations. As a parent of special-needs children, I know that it is a play set that we can't build in our backyard. It's an exciting enhancement -- one our family certainly looks forward to using for many years to come."

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