“Cut it. Cut it. Cut it.”
The student chants echoed across the blacktop at Ponderosa Elementary School on Oct. 25, as school Principal Alissa Meltzer and Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp joined hands to cut the ribbon, officially opening the school’s new accessible playground.
“They have been very patient and they will be very excited to play today,” said Meltzer after the ribbon cutting. “Until earlier this week, it was all fenced off so they could just look at it through the fences and then they took the fences down…we put up these stanchions with caution tape all around it for the last four days or so and the caution tape just came down this morning around 8:15.”
For paraeducator Kanthi Tantry, teaching her students about the playground was almost as fun as seeing them play on it.
“Every time I focus on each part of the playground they were all so excited. ‘How do we do this? How do we do that?’ It was all so much fun to show them,” said Tantry. “They wanted to go in [the Sway Fun] because there was a video that showed how to play in there…They saw the video and they went ‘Whoa, I want to get in there.’”
The Sway Fun — think of a seesaw big enough to fit a wheelchair — is just one of the many attributes of the accessible playground.
“I am excited about this playground because it looks fun and it has a lot of things I have not seen before,” said 2nd grader Miriam.
“I am excited about this new playground because the floor is soft and squishy, bouncy,” said upper grade speaker Jose. “I can’t wait to use the rolling tunnel. If I want a massage, I’ll just go to the rolling tunnel.”
The project required two years of intense planning, fundraising by everyone from the kindergartners to the parents, and a small leap of faith.
“We decided that we wanted to do this because we didn’t want to wait in case the bond didn’t pass,” said Meltzer. “We didn’t want to wait for the money to hit our schools however long after the bond was going to pass to get here, so we just made this commitment that this was what was really important to us.”
Donations by a number of groups including the Ponderosa Enrichment Programs Committee (PEPCO), the onsite Kids Club and the PTSA helped make the playground happen. The students conducted a Pennies of Playgrounds fundraiser and raised about $7,000.
In total, the school raised $136,000 and it was matched by a grant from Santa Clara County. Trumark Companies made a $90,000 donation toward the end of the project.
The accessible playground was built on a large portion of blacktop used by the first and second graders during recess. On the weekends, it’s available to everyone.
“Everybody’s really excited,” said Meltzer. “I had a parent come up to me today and say, ‘I’m bringing my child here, this weekend, we’re going to test it out because he sits in a wheelchair. This is how every playground should be.’ It just meant a lot coming from her because I know her child and when she says every playground should be this way, she really means it from her heart.”