JEROME — Eighth-graders at Heritage Academy in Jerome want to leave a legacy at their school: an adaptive playground accessible to students who have disabilities.
So far, they’ve raised about $4,000 — mostly, by selling baked goods and crafts earlier this year at the Jerome Farmers Market. They hope to have the playground installed by the end of this school year.
It’s a particularly relevant project for the public charter school, with about 170 students in kindergarten through eighth grades.
That’s because about 25 percent of its students have a disability. Plus, the playground will be used by community members, too.
Why are students interested in building a playground? “Because the little kids don’t have anything to play on,” said eighth-grader Callie Coelho, 13.
Eighth-graders put together three options for an adaptive playground. They haven’t made a final decision on which one to pursue, but costs start at $9,600.
Students began working on the project at the beginning of the school year.
Robert Hunter, a teacher at Heritage Academy, often sees children from the community using the existing playground — which includes a jungle gym, swings and basketball court — especially, when he comes to campus on the weekends.
Over the summer, Hunter heard from one child and a school board member about the need for adaptive playground equipment.
“They both wanted the same thing,” he said.
It’s a project eighth-graders wanted to take on, Hunter said, because they want the playground to be their legacy at the school.
Since Heritage Academy, which opened in 2011, only runs through eighth-grade, those students will head off to a different campus for high school.
Over the summer, a group of students, parents and board members got together to look at playground proposals online and potential costs.
The playground project fits in with Heritage Academy’s schoolwide enrichment model — developed by professors at the University of Connecticut — to allow students to participate in enrichment clusters.
That involves coming up with real-world products and services that align with their interests.
“We really push kids coming up with their own projects,” Hunter said.
The playground project includes creating blueprints, an executive summary and meeting with potential donors to raise money, school superintendent Christine Ivie wrote in an email to the Times-News.
Students also met with designers of Settlers Park in Meridian to learn about the planning process.
Students will buy the playground equipment and oversee its installation.
In addition to raising money at the Jerome Farmers Market, Callie said she and her classmates applied for a bank grant.
Students are also learning about the real-world process of building a playground, Hunter said, with help from adults.
That includes figuring out if they need a permit from the city of Jerome and the impact the new playground could have on Heritage Academy's insurance.