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Swing high

ADA swings give recess a new meaning for handicapped students

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Zane Gall, 5, a kindergarten student at Cooper Elementary School, left, hangs on as he swings on a specially designed Jennswing on Friday. Evie Dencklau, a special education teacher at the school, is there to give him a little push. Two ADA combination swings were installed at Cooper in October for students with disabilties to swing on.

For handicapped students like Zane Gall, recess at Cooper Elementary School just got a lot more fun.

That’s because an ADA combination swingset has been installed on the school’s playground.

On Friday, Gall, 5, a kindergarten student, was all smiles as he sat in the red Jennswing seat, which is specially designed for students with physical disabilities.

Evie Dencklau, a special education teacher, was there for support.

As Gall started swinging himself, Dencklau gave him a little push so he could get higher off the ground.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Lillian Lee, 5, a kindergarten student at Cooper Elementary School, tried out the new wheel cahir platform swing at the school on Friday. Tammy Tu, a paraeducator, at left, assisted Lee.

“This gives them the stability and them not having to worry about falling over,” Dencklau said.

Next to the Jennswing is a swing with a wheelchair platform that is enclosed for safety.

Dencklau, who has taught at Cooper for nine years, said one of her students is already attached to that particular swing.

“Connor (Brokaw, 7, a second-grader) says, ‘it’s my swing,'” Dencklau said. “It’s not really just his swing, but he gets to use something not everyone else does.”

“Other kids come by and they think it’s pretty cool,” Dencklau added.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Evie Dencklau, a special education teacher at Cooper Elementary School, left, walks Zane Gall, 5, a kindergarten student, back to class after swinging during recess Friday.

Before these swings were put in, students with physical disabilities would still play outside, but wouldn’t necessarily swing, Dencklau said.

The purchase and installation has been about a year in the making, according to Kelly Hinds, president of the Cooper Booster Club.

“We wanted a handicap accessible swing and we talked with the school about what would be best,” Hinds recalled. “Playground equipment is often limited to those who are mobile. We wanted all kids to be able to enjoy the excitement of recess.”

Hinds said one of the Booster Club members brought a check for a large portion of the cost.

Eventually, the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility donated $2,000 to the cause.

“This donation came to us,” Hinds said. “We didn’t even ask for it.”

That donation allowed for the swings to be purchased.

The equipment was installed in October.

“The kids love it,” Hinds said. “They absolutely love it. We are very grateful that the prison donated that.”

The swings are another way for the school to be inclusive for all students.

“It brought to light the accessibility of playground equipment,” Hinds said. “So we are grateful for that.”

Hinds said about 13 students will use the two swings. More than 200 students, kindergarten through fourth grade, attend Cooper.

Lynnae Harvey, the director of special needs and interim principal at Cooper, welcomes the upgrades.

“We try to meet all of our students needs and some of our kids couldn’t access all of the equipment,” Harvey said. “So it’s nice that they can enjoy swinging like all of the other kids.”

Hinds is pleased to see the new swings, but said the school is far from finished in its efforts to include all students in activities.

“This is kind of the first step,” Hinds said. “It would be great if all playgrounds were all inclusive.”