Every kid should have the chance to play. That’s the philosophy behind a brand new inclusive playground making its debut on Friday at Valley View Community School, which for the past 12 years has served the most medically fragile students in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Designed and constructed in cooperation with local playground builder Sun Country Systems, the inclusive playground will serve as a national demonstration project for accessible playgrounds created to serve children of all abilities.
“The Board of Trustees and our entire staff truly believe that every child should have the opportunity to be included and play,” said Dr. Catherine Kawaguchi, superintendent of the Sulphur Springs Union School District. “This is why this playground means so much.”
The Sulphur Springs District school serves children in preschool through sixth grade and includes a recently completed two-story building with state-of-the-art facilities to serve the therapy and educational needs of children in the school’s specialized programs. Those students come from not only the Sulphur Springs District, but also surrounding school districts including the Newhall School District, Saugus Union School District and Castaic Union School District.
The building also houses a Medical Therapy Unit for California Children’s Services (CCS), an organization that provides therapy and specialized training for clients with special needs, from infancy to age 21.
The new sea-themed playground is designed to meet the needs of the whole child (social, sensory, physical, cognitive, and communication), and includes equipment meeting the “Seven Principles of Inclusive Playground Design”: be fair, be included, be smart, be independent, be safe, be active, and be comfortable.
As part of a grant application to secure funding for the playground, Kawaguchi wrote: “The Valley View Community School playground embraces our values in our community where no child will be excluded from play, and embraces equal play opportunities. The playground will allow greater opportunities for all students, with and without special needs, to play and socialize together. Inclusive play is a top priority for our District, and every elementary district in our Valley will benefit since we are serving all Santa Clarita Valley elementary students with specialized needs.”
Tim Hollinger, president of Sun Country Systems (www.suncountrysystems.com), said the Santa Clarita-based playground builder was honored to participate in the project, which was initiated in March 2016.
“Valley View is an amazing place, and to see how dedicated they are to serving these children is truly inspiring,” Hollinger said. “We’re proud to play a role in ensuring that every Valley View child, of every ability, has a place to play, to be included both physically and socially, to develop their abilities, and to just be a kid.”