WES unveils new playground

Published 4:47 pm Monday, October 4, 2010

Wednesday’s ribbon cutting at Westside Elementary School marked the culmination of a project that will improve the learning environment for a very special group of young people.

The effort, headed by the Demopolis Civitan Club, focused on assembling a unique play area for students in the B.E.S.T. (Beginning Early Skills Today) class for three and four year olds.

“I thought about it when some of my special needs kids were putting rocks and dirt in their mouth,” WES special education teacher Loretta Moore said of the idea that struck her when she realized the full-size playground used by most students did not adequately fit the needs of her class. “I thought they needed their own play area.”

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From that idea came the newly-constructed play area, which spans an area of approximately 17 feet by 80 feet and features an awning on one end to protect children from the weather when needed.

The area is surrounded by fencing on three sides with the school building providing the perimeter for the fourth side. The green in color rubber flooring provides support for a castle style play set featuring a slide and a pair of swings. The area also consists of a playhouse, a pair of plastic cars in which children can ride, a basketball goal and a handful of other goodies.

“It has been about a year and a half long project,” Civitan member Kelley Smith, who spearheaded the project, said.

“It enhances the safe environment we established in the beginning just by fencing in the area,” WES principal Connie Brown said. “It also adds to the aesthetics of our campus. It’s beautiful.”

The most expensive portion of the work was laying the foundation, a type of rubber flooring that keeps children off the dirt and concrete while also providing them a safer landing in the event of a fall.

“The big project was the flooring,” Smith said. “In total it was about a $25,000 project. We went around and asked local businesses for money and they were very generous with their donations.”

Smith said Civitan successfully solicited contributions from Rock-Tenn, Alabama Power Service Organization, Foster Farms and Weyerhauser as well as donating some funding of its own.

“To have a community where the advocates are already there for our students, it’s priceless,” Brown said. “Demopolis has that. Everybody has a stake in what goes on our campuses.”