October 4, 2004
When principal Gayle Householder first saw Franklin East Elementary School’s original playground, it had an ambiance that made her want to reopen it for special-needs children and kindergarten students.
The railroad ties, seesaws, tire swings and tall equipment easily brought nostalgic memories of her own childhood.
But every piece of equipment was now prohibited for student use based on a federal law that has created new safety requirements for school playgrounds.
"It was beautiful. It was just a thing of the past," Householder said. "The important thing is that our kids are safe when they’re playing."
The Mesa Unified School District rebuilt the entire playground during Householder’s first two years at the school, as many schools begin to creat e improved special-needs playgrounds.
Two aging wheelchair swings that used metal chains to restrain children were replaced with the most up-todate equipment. Four thick, red plastic swings allow special-needs students to be strapped securely into seats similar to those on a roller coaster and be pushed by a teacher.
Most important, Householder said, while the old atmosphere is gone, a new cheerful playground means safer fun for the students.
"They’d rather be out here than in the classroom," said teacher Janet Pomey.