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Teacher Looks to Bring Metal Slides Back to Playground

When Grand Rapids Public Schools moved its Oral Deaf Program from Shawnee Park Elementary School to Ken O Sha Elementary last year, one thing was overlooked– the metal slides from the playground. While metal slides have gone out of fashion in favor of their plastic counterparts in most play circles, they are the only option for children with cochlear implants, unless the child removes the external part of the device before sliding.

Children with cochlear implants, electronic devices that greatly improves hearing, shouldn’t use plastic slides because the static electricity generated interferes with the implant’s setting, causing it to short circuit and affect the child’s hearing.

The Oral Deaf Program, which serves students with hearing deficiencies, includes about 10 students who have cochlear implants.

The Ken O Sha playground, 1353 Van Auken St SE, which has separate sections for preschool students and older students, has many plastic slides, a problem special education teacher Jennie Carlson said keeps her from taking the students out for recess, something difficult for a 4-year-old to understand.

“We feel like it’s hard to tell them they can’t go down the slide,” Carlson said. “It’s so sad.”

“I didn’t take them out all year,” she said, noting that it’s much easier for the older students to understand they can’t use the slides. “We’re potentially looking at another whole school year without being able to go out.

A cochlear implant is an electronic device that greatly improves hearing. Static electricity from plastic slides can cause the devices to short circuit

Grand Rapids Christian Schools purchased Shawnee Park Math/Science/Technology Academy, at 2036 Chesaning Drive SE near the Christian high school, from GRPS last year.

Carlson hopes to find a solution, but replacing the playground equipment is costly. Metal slides alone cost $4,000 to $5,000 each. Replacing all three plastic slides on the preschool playground and adding a teeter totter would cost about $16,000. Carlson is working to obtain grants and has already received $2,000 from Buist Electric, in Byron Center. She is interested in finding other funding opportunities. To contact her, e-mail jenniecarlson24@gmail.com.


Designing Playgrounds for Children with Cochlear Implants

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is managing editor and reporter, covering Kentwood, Lowell and Wyoming. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013, and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio


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