Creating a safe haven for special needs students

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RUSSIAVILLE, Ind. -- An Indiana teacher is working to make sure all her students are able to enjoy their free time. Not all students at Western Primary School in Russiaville can benefit from their playground.

“Right now for recess time, they don’t get to go outside because we don’t have an adapted playground that’s safe for them,” said physical education teacher  Physical Education Teacher, Tricia Harlow.

She’s working to change that and add a breath of fresh air in the lives of the 70 kids with special needs at the school.

“We’re fortunate. We have some really great teachers, Tricia being one of them. When they see the need, they go after it,” said Randy McCracken, superintendent for Western School Corporation.

Harlow says for the past three years the students in the special needs program have not had the luxury to enjoy playtime like others.

“We have some kids that will just go on the blacktop, maybe they’re in a wheelchair, maybe they have braces that keep them from being able to play on the playground. Some of them just stay inside and inside the gym area,” Harlow said.

In January, she started raising money for an inclusive playground. Something Lacee Cochran and her daughter Lake are looking forward to.

“The special needs playground is really going to benefit her and the rest of the kids. She has down syndrome, so balance and coordination is not her strong suit,” Cochran said.

She believes the new playground will provide not only Lake with more freedom but give her a sense of peace about Lake’s time at school.

“It would be an amazing feeling. Me standing here knowing that she’s on the playground somewhere is kind of stressing me out. It would be nice to know that she would be able to just go and somebody doesn’t have to be by her side all the time, constantly,” Cochran said.

A potential wrinkle in the plan is money. They are not eligible for grants. They’re raising the $120,000 on their own through bakes sales, bike rides and other fundraisers. So far they’ve raised $40,000, but they’re hoping to break ground sooner rather than later.

“I ’d like to have it done tomorrow. As soon as possible, we don’t have a time frame, it’s just whenever we get the funds is when we’ll break ground,” Harlow said.

The school is currently working to raise the funds to have the project completed by the fall.

If you would like to help, you can send donations for “Project playground” directly to the school:

Western School Corporation
2600 S 600 West
Russiaville, IN 46979

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