Green Lake Elementary School (GLES) families are leading an effort to update and improve the school's outdoor play space, and we need your help.
GLES is a unique public school in Seattle in that it serves not only students from preschool to fifth grade who live in the surrounding neighborhood, but also students from all over north Seattle who are medically fragile, many of whom use wheelchairs.
In fact, GLES is one of three of our city’s public elementary schools that provides special programs and resources for students with severe physical and cognitive challenges. One of the school’s great strengths is the learning for all students that results from the integration of those with special needs and those in general education.
Why a New Playground?
The Green Lake Elementary community and Seattle Public Schools (SPS) know that currently, all GLES students, and especially those using wheelchairs, are underserved by the school’s playground.
Currently, students using wheelchairs are not able to access the playground from the back of the school, where other students exit and use stairs down a steep hill. Instead, mobility-impaired students must exit the front of the school and go around the block to enter the playground in back.
Despite the construction of a new, safer main play structure by SPS in the fall of 2020, much of the playground still presents obstacles and dangers for students in wheelchairs (and the teachers and school staff who serve them), and it’s difficult to navigate.
Additionally, a large portion of the school's “backyard” is wasted space that students cannot use at recess because with a steep hill and dense vegetation, it is not visible to teachers and school staff on duty.
An Accessible and Inclusive Playground for GLES
With input and feedback from many in the Green Lake Elementary community, our surrounding neighborhood, and Seattle Public Schools, we have agreed upon an approach to address playground’s current shortcomings and foster a fun outdoor environment with numerous physical, social-emotional and cognitive benefits for our students. The plan envisions:
· Renovating our small, steep wooded hillside, transforming it into a fun and usable play area with improved visibility for playground supervisors at recess, and adding a ramp on the slope to enable playground access for students in wheelchairs.
· Adding a more inclusive, soft, smooth surface underneath our new main play structure, and a couple of more inclusive play elements, such as a wheelchair-accessible carousel to promote inclusive play and foster collaboration and empathy among all students.
· The playground is open to the community at large during non-school hours, so all children throughout the neighborhood can enjoy this new inclusive play area. The project also includes benches and seating throughout, so members of the community of all ages are able to find a place for themselves.
Inspired by former GLES student, Jack Ahrens, and the donation of his memorial fund, our playground renovation dream got off the ground in 2018. Our GLES community rallied behind this project and within months we had raised more than $90,000. We secured our first grant through the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods and through a year-long process of community meetings and input, we developed a master plan for the active space at GLES. We have since secured additional funding through SPS and several grants initiated by GLES parent volunteers.
As of November 2020, nearly 70% of our fundraising goal is completed. We are so close!
We are eternally grateful to the many people involved for their hard work and generous contributions. We have an ambitious goal of reaising $150,000 by the end of February so that we complete construction by the time school opens in Fall of 2021.
Green Lake Elementary School PTA is a 501 (C)3 Nonprofit oraganization and contributions are tax deductable.