Par­ents raise $65,000 for new Pem­broke play­ground

The News-Times (Sunday) - - Front Page - LO­CAL

DAN­BURY — Teach­ers and par­ents at Pem­broke Ele­men­tary School have raised more than $65,000 in con­tri­bu­tions to­ward a new play­ground over the past six months.

The fundrais­ing puts the team more than a third of the way to­ward its $150,000 goal to build a play­ground with equip­ment that will be more ac­ces­si­ble for chil­dren with spe­cial needs or phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties — the first of its kind within city lim­its.

“It’s so ex­cit­ing to see peo­ple step­ping up,” said Leigh Vi­viano, a Pem­broke spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion teacher who has spear­headed the ef­fort. “I guess it’s hap­pen­ing quickly, but I’d like to see it mov­ing even faster.

“It would be so great to be able to put this is mo­tion and have it all fin­ished for the kids when they get back next fall,” she said. “Maybe that’s a lit­tle am­bi­tious, but it would be great.”

So far, Vi­viano and a team of school of­fi­cials, par­ents and com­mu­nity mem­bers have raised more than $20,000 in cash dona­tions alone for the pro­ject.

This fall, Dan­bury High School ath­let­ics let Vi­viano and her team raise money at home games and even the fifth grade stu­dents at Ridge­field’s Scot­land Ele­men­tary School con­trib­uted a $1,000 check to help out.

Hat City Tat­too raised al­most $9,300 in one day dur­ing a do­na­tion drive ear­lier this fall, Vi­viano said.

Mayor Mark Boughton and Pub­lic Works Direc­tor An­to­nio Iadarola might not be able to con­trib­ute cash from the city, but they have agreed that Pub­lic Works could use its equip­ment and staff to help clear the school’s play­ground, pre­pare the site and fix some of the drainage is­sues there.

They es­ti­mate that’s about $30,000 worth of work to­ward the pro­ject.

“We’ll def­i­nitely give her a hand with it,” Boughton said. “She’s do­ing a great thing for the district and the city. It’s a great idea and she’s worked so hard on it, so we want to help out.”

Mas­sachusetts-based play­ground firm Child­scapes has de­signed a set that would in­clude typ­i­cal climb­ing equip­ment and slides, but also ramps, Amer­i­cans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act com­pli­ant swings and a “sen­sory gar­den” for spe­cial needs stu­dents. Rub­ber play­ground tiles would re­place the tra­di­tional mulch floor, mak­ing it more ac­ces­si­ble for stu­dents with phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties.

Next up, school district staff are pre­par­ing to re­ceive a $15,000 grant to­ward the pro­ject. State Reps. David Ar­conti and Michael Fer­gu­son also plan to pitch the pro­ject to the state Bond Com­mis­sion in De­cem­ber as one “Hail Mary” ef­fort to land fund­ing in the fi­nal meet­ing be­fore the next ad­min­is­tra­tion starts af­ter the New Year.

At the very least, the pro­ject is well on its way to be­com­ing a re­al­ity, even if not in Vi­viano’s ac­cel­er­ated time­line next year, of­fi­cials said.

Pem­broke has one of the high­est con­cen­tra­tions of spe­cial needs stu­dents in the district, with its al­most 90 such stu­dents mak­ing up a quar­ter of the en­tire stu­dent body, said Vi­viano, who teaches fourth and fifth grade spe­cial needs stu­dents.

“It’s re­ally im­por­tant for these kids, but we do also want it to be for ev­ery­one else,” she said. “It’ll be a place for ev­ery­one to play.”

Carol Kaliff / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

From left, Re­becca Araujl, Alexis Gar­cia, both 8, and Jah­naiya Reyes, 9, chat on the bars on the play­ground dur­ing re­cess on June 6. Par­ents and teach­ers at Pem­broke Ele­men­tary are try­ing to raise $150,000 for a new play­ground and park at the school that would be more ac­ces­si­ble to the school’s 90 spe­cial needs stu­dents.

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