Jackson County Public Schools has been awarded a $130,000 grant from Dogwood Health Trust to begin construction of accessible playgrounds at three schools to serve children with special needs. The Jackson County Commissioners will provide an additional $130,000 to match the grant and complete the project which aligns with their community plan for safe recreational spaces.
The district currently houses classrooms for students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities at Cullowhee Valley, Fairview, and Smoky Mountain High School. The funds will be used at those schools to build or reconstruct playgrounds that feature age-appropriate equipment and surface materials that accommodate mobility for individuals who require a walker or wheelchair.
Superintendent Dr. Dana Ayers and Director of Student Support Services Kelly Doppke applied for the grant hoping to update the decades-old play areas and equipment that are increasingly insufficient for physical and occupational therapy needs.
“I believe all students deserve equal access to opportunities for multi-modal learning regardless of their physical ability,” Ayers said. “With this grant, we will create outdoor spaces where students can improve their physical and motor skills while interacting and enjoying time with their peers.”
Ayers is greatly appreciative of the Dogwood Health grant and the matching funds from county commissioners. She believes the benefit of the investment will extend beyond the school day because the playgrounds will be open after school hours and on weekends.
“What a wonderful gift for our families and children with special needs,” Ayers said.
Construction is set to begin in June with completion expected before students arrive for the 2022-23 school year in August.