Ecole Dr. Bernard Brosseau School held the grand opening of their new inclusive playground on Tuesday. The wheelchair-accessible unit finished just before snow fell, culminating a two year process from start to finish.
One of the things that makes the playground inclusive, is the rubber cusion base surrounding the playground, so if a student falls they won’t be as hurt. There are also two wheelchair ramps, a wheelchair accessible bouncy bus, and a unit that is lower to the ground making it easier for kids to reach.
Andrea Reid says the inclusive playground idea came after her oldest daughter was leaving Dr. Brosseau for high school. She warned that her younger sister Kennedy wouldn’t be able to play on the new playground [at the time] because of her physical and mental disabilities.
“So I came to Vince and the teacher rep and said ‘So, you have this new playground. But Kennedy can’t play on the playground,-’” said Reid.
“And I had my jaw drop,” said Principal Vince Spila. “I said, ‘oh my gosh, I never even realized that.’”
That began the process of trying to find funding for a new playground while the school was still paying the debt of their last one that they had built a years before.
“Unfortunately the boom isn’t happening for anybody so money is tight right now. So it’s like where do you go for money?” said Spila.
The principal asked a few businesses if they could help, but eventually went back to the Lakeland Catholic School Division board to ask for a loan. They agreed. That started the process as soon as possible.
“It’s like why wait? Let’s do this now so Kennedy can enjoy it for at least a few years,” said Spila.
Three other Dr. Brousseau students besides Kennedy are benefitting from the playgrounds that wouldn’t have otherwise. Not to mention after school groups with disable children who play on it as well.
Through the school’s efforts and attitude towards students with disabilities, Reid nominated Dr. Brousseau school for the National Inclusive Education Award. It celebrates a school or teacher’s efforts in ensuring every child is welcomed and included. Dr. Brosseau won the award in April.
“We treat all our kids the same. We don’t see them with an ability or disability, we look at them all as the same. That’s why we we heard that a student couldn’t get onto the playground, we thought we’re doing them a disservice. We need to make sure all of our kids are being accounted for and that everyone feels the same,” said Spila.
Duclos School is one of the only schools in the area that has an inclusive park. It focuses on sensory awareness rather than wheelchair accessibility.
The new inclusive playground ties into the school’s 30th anniversary, and Principal Vince Spila’s last days at Dr. Brosseau before he graduates to Ecole Notre Dame High School as principal.
“It’s just a different atmosphere when you walk in here,” said Spila of Dr. Brosseau.