July 31, 2010
Mayor Richard M. Daley today joined Chicago Public Schools officials and members of the Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School community in dedicating a new playground at the West Side school.
The playground was designed and constructed with the assistance of Chicago Public Schools high school students who are part of the District’s unique Groundbreakers Program.
During the school year, Groundbreakers students from 30 CPS high schools work part-time in project management to design CPS playgrounds A staff of five from the internal student-managed Groundbreakers Design Department coordinated the design process for Bethune’s new play area.
“We are excited about this new school playground because it offers amenities for an enjoyable place to play and exercise for students and families of this community,” said Mayor Daley. “The greatest feature of this new play ground is that it was designed and constructed with the assistance of Chicago Public Schools high school students through the Groundbreaker Program.”
The new play area replaces Bethune’s old asphalt play area and play lot, which were in disrepair and did not meet ADA accessibility standards.
The new play area is split into two parts, north and south of the school. Younger students play immediately next to the school building in a new ADA-accessible playground. Older students can play at the new track and artificial turf field.
The field can be used for all elementary sports and recreational activities. It is surrounded by a wrought iron fence which can be locked to ensure the safety of the students.
Demolition of the old playground began in mid-June and the project was completed at the end of July. The cost of the new playground, turf and drainage system was $350,000.
Student involvement was a key component of the project. The student team from Groundbreakers met with Bethune Principal Zipporah Hightower and school staff to develop two playground designs that provided interactive and educational play options.
The CPS youth staff worked with a vendor on two custom designs which were presented to Bethune students for a vote. Last spring, students viewed 3D displays and cast their vote for the design they liked best.
During summer break, the youth staff transitioned to a full-time work schedule to complete the installation of more than 20 playgrounds across the entire city of Chicago.
“I want to congratulate the students for a truly innovative design which is ADA accessible. This will ensure children with disabilities and their families can enjoy this park.” Mayor Daley added, ”helping to build 20 playgrounds throughout the city, provides hands-on, real-life work experience these students will need in the real professional world.”
Chicago Public Schools serves 417,855 students in 675 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.