It’s spring in the city and that means hundreds of thousands of children will be outside at recess and before and after school, enjoying the warm weather, green space, and a variety of outdoor activities. At Seneca School, staff, parts and community are hard at work to design and develop a new specially-designed playground that will enhance those kinds of experiences for students at the west-end school for children between 4 and 14 who have physical challenges, medical needs and autism.
The plan kicked off with a gala hosted by the school at Le Jardin Banquet Hall on March 30. The evening featured entertainment, raffle draws, silent auctions, and live auctions to assist in funding the playground. One of the highlights of the event was a moving speech by nine-year-old Khaleefa, who, with the aid of a communication device, told the guests why she loves her school. Her sister Khadeeja, a student at York Memorial CI, preceded her. She shared the remarkable progress Khaleefa has made with the help and tireless work of staff at the school and access to the specialized equipment that students are able to use.
Specialized equipment for people with disabilities can be very expensive and playground equipment is no exception. The school’s gala put a significant dent towards the estimated $70,000 cost for phase one of the schools plans, raising a whopping $40,640.
Plans are in place to develop the grounds in five phases. Phase one includes surfacing and installation of two swings bays with three bucket seats and one reclining seat for children with less head and trunk control and one Sway Fun Glider. The wheelchair-accessible glider features space for two wheelchairs, plus two large benches and a play table with cup holders and wheelchair handholds.
“Play is such an important part of learning for all children,” said Principal Stuart Garner. “Play connects us socially but also provides energy and a sense of focus that is particularly helpful in the classroom. It helps develop imagination, creativity and problem-solving abilities. And it’s especially important for children with disabilities who tend to be more sedentary than others.”
Garner said that the success of the gala showcased the school community’s commitment to working together for the benefit of students. "Seneca has an exceptionally supportive and collaborative environment," he said. "And our students inspire all of us on a daily basis. They face enormous physical, intellectual, behavioural, and medical challenges but do so with grace and dignity,” he continued. “We are so proud to work with our parents and community partners to build a fun, safe, accessible playground that will serve the needs of our students, a playground where wheelchairs and special equipment don’t stand in the way of fun and where disability is transformed into ability.”
For more information about the playground project and Seneca School, click here.