published Friday, April 8th, 2011

Bradley school celebrates its field of dreams

Bradley County Schools Director Johnny McDaniel chats with students at Waterville Community Elementary School on Thursday. Later there was a groundbreaking ceremony in which some of the children with colorful plastic shovels broke ground for a new playground with an assist from teachers, McDaniel, County Mayor D. Gary Davis and school board members Troy Weathers and Christy Critchfield. The playground will be handicapped accessible and open to the community. Construction starts April 18.
Staff Photo by Randall Higgins/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Bradley County Schools Director Johnny McDaniel chats with students at Waterville Community Elementary School on Thursday. Later there was a groundbreaking ceremony in which some of the children with colorful plastic shovels broke ground for a new playground with an assist from teachers, McDaniel, County Mayor D. Gary Davis and school board members Troy Weathers and Christy Critchfield. The playground will be handicapped accessible and open to the community. Construction starts April 18. Staff Photo by Randall Higgins/Chattanooga Times Free Press

CLEVELAND, Tenn.—It was not the usual groundbreaking at Waterville Community Elementary School.

On Thursday, children who might have difficulties with a typical playground used colorful plastic shovels to break ground — well, kind of — for a new facility that will be easier for them to play on.

“Our field of dreams is actually going to happen,” Principal Charlene Cofer said.

The dream began in 2007 when teacher Michelle Rogers pointed out a lack of playing areas for children with physical limitations. The new playground will be handicapped-accessible but open to all of Waterville’s 580 pupils.

They may not have moved much dirt, but the groundbreakers — and hundreds of their classmates — marked the day with enthusiasm.

As groundbreakers lined up for a photo, one little girl danced about in front of the group. Some stretched their shovels to the ground from their wheelchairs.

The students were assisted by teachers, Bradley County Schools Director Johnny McDaniel, Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis and school board members Troy Weathers and Christy Critchfield.

Playground construction is expected to begin April 18 and take about three weeks.

The school’s PTO raised $10,000 for the playground, Rogers said. That money bought three pieces of handicapped-accessible equipment that will be moved to the new playground when it is finished.

Last year, the school also received a Bradley County Healthy Community Initiative grant for $23,000 to put toward the playground. The initiative is a county fund, independent of regular budgets, resulting from the 2005 sale of Bradley County’s hospital. Investment income from that money is given as grants for projects that promote community health, wellness and quality of life.

“It is very important that we provide physical activities for these children, especially with equipment specially designed for them,” McDaniel said.

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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