Natasha Abelman and daughter Mayah have been fundraising with their school to get wheelchair-accessible features added to Evans elementary's playground.

Accessible playground underway at Evans elementary

Evans elementary will start building a new wheelchair accessible playground in stages this August.

It’s not the full playground they wanted, but it’s a start.

Come September, students at Evans elementary will start seeing the payoff of their hard work this past year.

Shovels will be in the ground starting the last week of August, laying out a new, rubberized ground cover for the school’s playground. Three new pieces of accessible playground equipment will also be installed following the installation of the ground cover, which, according to outgoing school principal Gabe D’Archangelo, is the most important piece.

“Because it’s a small school and the kids all know each other, the playground was always an issue,” said D’Archangelo. “A few of our kids were always on the outside looking in, to be honest.

“This is going to change all that. It really will. It’s going to allow accessibility for all kids.”

The current playground has a wood chipped flooring that prevents children in wheelchairs from using it. A rubberized surface will allow all students, as well as young families with strollers, access.

The installation will also include a new OmniSpin Spinner, Oodle Swing and Gyro Twister, Orbiter, and Cycler combination. The OmniSpin and Oodle Swing are fully accessible with high back bucket seats and transfer points from wheelchair and walkers to the equipment. The Gyro, Orbiter, and Cycler is a combination of able-bodied and accessible equipment that helps build upper body strength and teaches centrifugal force.

“The pieces are all going to be universally accessible and useable,” said D’Archangelo. “The idea behind that is that they’re for all the kids. They aren’t just for our physically challenged kids. They can all use them.

“And that builds the inclusivity for the school.”

The school’s playground committee had hoped to install a fully accessible playground in one piece. However, playground politics have caused them to rethink that strategy.

A year and a half ago, Evans was quoted $98,000 for a complete, fully accessible playground by Habitat Systems. The company recently increased the quote to $103,340.

“We didn’t expect that; we thought once the price was done, it was fixed,” said D’Archangelo.

As of June, the school had raised over $50,000 through fundraising initiatives and grants that include Tire StewardShip BC, Chilliwack Foundation, Ford Drive 4 UR School, Aviva, and other local initiatives.

The new equipment and ground cover will cost $42,059.56.

“The shovels will be in the ground and something will there for the kids for September,” said D’Archangelo.

“It’s going to create some more excitement. We’re halfway [with fundraising] and halfway is a long way to go, but if we start putting some things in place, it’ll help.”

The fundraising initiatives are continuing.

Any company that donates $1,000 will have a durable banner hung from the school’s fence along Evans Road for the duration of the fundraising initiatives. Once the playground is complete, the companies will also be recognized on a commemorative plaque.

For more information, visit the Evans Universal Playground Project Facebook page.

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