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School for disabled, community unite to build play area Plan will meet needs of Maiden Choice students and Arbutus children


An Arbutus school for the disabled and a neighboring community shared a common problem -- the lack of a playground.

Now they plan to share in the solution, by building an innovative playground that will accommodate the needs of students at the Maiden Choice School and community children, and give them a chance to interact.

The playground -- expected to be completed in the fall -- will have the usual equipment, but also swings and enclosed slides that can be used by children in wheelchairs.

"This is already kind of a hub for neighborhood activity," said Marylane Soeffing, a librarian at the school and organizer of the playground project. "This playground will bring all of the children together."

Ms. Soeffing said she was searching for an enclosed slide when she learned that area residents were interested in building a playground for community children. Several community leaders, organizations and associations quickly signed on to raise the estimated $20,500, which includes the cost of specialized playground equipment. They plan to apply for a county grant to help finance the playground.

"We thought it was something that was good for the community," said Bob Liggett, president of the Arbutus Recreation and Parks Council, which has been raising money for the project. "And so of ten we tend to forget the needs of special students."

The playground will be built on a 130-by-48-foot plot, adjacent to the school, which serves students from ages 3 to 21. In addition to two wheelchair swings, the playground will have a wheelchair ramp, regular swings and a flat, cushiony surface to allow children in wheelchairs to move freely.

Joann Trach, a volunteer with the Neighborhood Design Center, which offers professional design services to community organizations, did the initial design of the playground. Ms. Trach said the community wanted a play area that could be integrated with the basketball courts on the school grounds.

"In any design we always take into account what the clients want, and we work with what they have and what they need," Ms. Trach said. "This playground was designed specifically for the school users and the community surrounding it."

Baltimore County Councilman Stephen G. Sam Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat who represents the area, said it is important for the community to provide safe play areas for children. But the playground will help the disabled students and area children, he said.

"For some of the students, being able to go outside and get some exercise is very important to the learning process," Mr. Moxley said.

"It also does something for the kids without special needs. It shows them that, hey, [the disabled students] want to do the same things that I want to do, and, hopefully, that will do away with some of the stereotyping of the disabled."

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