NORTH HAVEN — While staring out in excitement at their school’s brand new playground, Ridge Road Elementary School students heard from lots of special guests during a visit Wednesday.
Town and school officials were there to introduce the students to their new accessible playground, which was made with the diversity of students in mind.
“There's something on this playground for everyone, of every ability, so all students can learn and grow together,” said PTA member Erin Lamb, who helped see the project through.
The playground is accessible for students who use wheelchairs or walkers with details like rubberized flooring, wide ramps climbing up to the second highest level, and musical instruments at heights someone in a chair could reach.
The playground was also made to incorporate different modes of play and sensory preferences. Lamb said there are activities for kids who like to spin, climb or slide, or prefer calmer activities than nonstop running.
Joining the celebration were Ridge Road PTA leaders, First Selectman Michael Freda, Superintendent of Schools and former Ridge Road Superintendent Patrick Stirk, newly inducted Quinnipiac University President Judy Olian and the school’s mascot Cruiser, the Red-Tailed Hawk.
Olian said she’s proud to be able to support projects like these, because playgrounds are places where the “seed of what kids become later on” starts to emerge, as their minds, personalities and teamwork skills develop.
“For us educators, we know that this is where kids learn how to share, how to be creative, how to self-regulate, how to control impulses…” Olian said.
The newly inducted president said the university is committed to lifting up nearby communities and supporting future generations.
Quinnipiac University donated about $200,000 to the playground project as part of the university’s voluntary payment to the town last year.
Putting together the accessible playground started about two years ago, through the Ridge Road PTA’s Play Together Committee and its vision of a place where every student can play.
The $278,000 project was fully funded through donations from families, foundations and corporations.
Supporters include Calare Properties, Rotary International, Fantarella Dental Group, North Haven Education Foundation, and Brescome Barton, Inc.
Design and installation for the project was done by Milone & MacBroom; Creative Recreation; GT Landscaping & Excavation LLC; and the Public Works Departments of the town and Board of Education.
Superintendent Patrick Stirk was principal at Ridge Road School when the project was first started. He expressed excitement for the students and local community to be able to enjoy the new playspace.
“We finally have a playground that is truly inclusive and accessible to all students,” Stirk said.