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Development News

Philly's second ADA-accessible playground planned for Kensington

The current play surface is asphalt

A rendering of the new schoolyard at Hackett

Celebrating ADA-compliance

A new gateway at Hackett

East York Street's Horatio B. Hackett Elementary School just kicked off a major fundraising push that partners and supporters hope will make Kensington host to the city's second ADA-compliant playground.

Thanks to a collaboration between the School District, the Philadelphia Water Department, New Kensington CDC and the Community Design Collaborative, a stormwater-savvy revitalization plan has been underway at Hackett for about three years. With help from group Friends of Hackett, project partners hope to raise $1.4 million to transform the schoolyard.

Hackett's current yard is a giant square of concrete; the new plan includes ADA-compliant play equipment and a rainwater capture system with underground storage. Friends of Hackett board member Allison Dean says the playground plans are important because 27 percent of the school’s students use assistive devices or need an ADA-compliant play space. And only five percent of those students live in the surrounding neighborhood -- the rest are bussed in from other parts of the city, underscoring the need for more accessible play spaces everywhere.

The only other fully ADA-compliant playground is East Fairmount Park's Smith Memorial Playground, and for those without cars, it takes 45 minutes on two bus routes to get there from Kensington.

"We have a higher percentage of special education [students] and it’s important for them to have access to outdoor equipment," insists Principal Todd Kimmel.

On April 27, the school held a fundraising kick-off for friends and students, featuring representatives from Friends of Hackett, the School District’s Central East Assistant Superintendent Dr. Racquel Jones, and State Senator Christine Tartaglione. Stakeholders also unveiled a new gateway arch, funded by $25,000 from Penn Treaty Special Services District (Sugarhouse Casino’s charitable arm) and a $5,000 in-kind gift from Healy Long & Jevin Concrete.

Jana Curtis, co-chair of the Friends of Hackett capital campaign committee for the new schoolyard, says it was very fitting that the fundraising kick-off happened on April 27.

Curtis and her husband live across the street from the school, and her husband’s grandmother Florence Colduvell (who recently passed away) served as a crossing guard for 26 years at the corner of York and Sepviva Streets, next to the site of the new gateway. April 27 would have been her 90th birthday.

"At least once a month, someone knocks on my door and asks for her," says Curtis. She calls Hackett a "calm and bright" school that’s thriving and hopes the new schoolyard will serve the wider community as well as the students.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Todd Kimmel, Hackett Elementary School; Allison Dean and Jana Curtis, Friends of Hackett
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