Archived Story

Playground for special needs planned

Published 11:41am Thursday, December 20, 2012

Plans are in place for a new playground at Dadeville Elementary School tailored to students with special needs.

Students with special needs at Dadeville Elementary School play on the same playground with all the other students, but school officials say that’s not good enough.

“We’ve got a P.E. coach who carries some of our special needs kids on his shoulder up the slide,” said Principal Chad McKelvey. “We don’t have a swing they can use right now.”

McKelvey said the special needs playground idea came into the picture after one teacher, Joan Carlisle, brought it up.

“She had $2,000 that she had raised, which doesn’t get very far, but it was quite an accomplishment for that class,” McKelvey said.

With the creation of a grant team, Dadeville Elementary soon found a grant to partially fund the project through Hammill Recreation – a grant the company created after the 2011 tornadoes.

“It was initially created to help schools rebuild things they had lost,” said Lisa Hurley, who teaches a special education class. “But then they saw a need in other areas that it could help so they continued to offer the grant.”

The new playground will feature a rubberized surface and special play equipment, along with a covering and a fence, McKelvey said.

“The swings act like a roller coaster ride – it’s got a contraption that just lifts up and lifts down,” McKelvey said. “There’s no strapping them in.”

In addition to special swings, the playground also incorporates equipment that encourages touch.

“Special needs children need lots of things to touch and to feel,” Hurley said. “That’s one of the reasons we really liked the climbing wall.”

A painting wall and a music station will also allow the children to use sense of touch.

“Everything we are looking at purchasing is the most up-to-date, high tech, most efficient equipment we could find, which is what we feel our students deserve,” Hurley said.

McKelvey said the important thing is to be able to afford children with special needs the same opportunities as the other students – something they haven’t been able to do with their current playground facilities.

“These are students who, right now, their P.E. experience is not what we would like it to be,” McKelvey said.

And McKelvey said he thinks the importance of offering those equal opportunities is something many people still don’t understand.

“I know a lot of people understand that, but in a lot of ways some people don’t – they just have a blind eye toward it,” McKelvey said. “It’s not that they don’t care or anything like that, it’s just they don’t notice it. They don’t see it. Once it affects you, if you have a child or grandchild who’s in this situation … then it really opens your eyes to some of this.

“You start to realize, ‘We could offer more for them.’”

The project will total about $100,000. With the grant covering $30,000, McKelvey said they are hoping for donations from community members and businesses. Sen. Tom Whatley and Rep. Mark Tuggle has also donated toward the effort, and McKelvey said they may do fundraisers. Hurley said no donation is too small.

“We had one student send in $2 this morning,” Hurley said. “We will gladly accept that.”

Hurley said they hope to get the playground up and running by mid to late spring.

“I get very emotional about it, because I think it’s something we need,” Hurley said. “And it kills me. We’re going to get it.”

The playground will serve 40–50 children each year from all the county schools. McKelvey said he thinks the students with special needs will thrive in the environment. “This is something we absolutely need,” McKelvey said. “This is something that will put smiles on kids’ faces every day.” To find out more or donate toward the playgroud, email Hurley at or call the school at 256-825-6811.

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