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Lynn’s Harrington Elementary is getting an inclusive playground

Lynn, Ma. 5-6-19. The Harrington School with its playground. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — Harrington Elementary School plans to transform its outdoor play space into an inclusive playground for all students, which would be more accessible to kids with disabilities and align with the district’s focus on social and emotional learning.

The School Committee approved a request from Harrington Principal Lissa Jussaume last Thursday to power wash and repaint the school’s hot top pavement area with new  games and activities. Work is expected to be completed this summer.

“At Harrington, we don’t have a real playground,” Jussaume said. “We want to turn our playground into an interactive playground that would be inclusive for all students. So, our students who are in wheelchairs would have access to some of the new activities that we are putting there.”

The current playground is a big enough space for students in wheelchairs, but a lot of its activities are walking or large group games, which limits their involvement, Jussaume said.

Today, Playworks, an organization that describes its mission as helping kids stay active and build valuable life skills through play, is the school’s major resource. Harrington has space designed for a few activities, such as four-square and wall ball.

But over the years, Jussaume said there’s been mixed feedback with Playworks, with accidents and scuffles occurring outside. It’s also eliminated some of the creative, interactive play.

The new playground would be not only for recess and gym class, but would be open for play before and after school. Jussaume estimated the project would cost about $600, which she expected to be covered by upcoming fundraisers the school is running.

The redesigned space would include a skip counting component, an alphabet, clock, four square, Twister area and mirror image square.

Jussaume said the new activities would help with developing students’ fine and gross motor skills, and as a technique for de-escalating situations. The playground could also be used for occupational and physical therapy, she said.

School Committee members were largely in favor, calling the proposal a creative and innovative way to use the school’s hot top.

“I really, really like this idea,” said School Committee member Lorraine Gately. “It falls along nicely with the social-emotional learning and how we’re going to be collaborating with students and helping them to engage.”

School Committee member Brian Castellanos said interactive play is important for students who experience trauma. Trauma-informed play is something that is part of the district’s social and emotional learning curriculum, he said.

“It’s vital,” Castellanos said. “It’s definitely something I support.”

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