El Carmelo Elementary School to get inclusive playground

Board of Supervisors approve $10 million in matching funds

El Carmelo Elementary School in Palo Alto is one of several local schools that received funding this week from Santa Clara County to build an all-inclusive playground on their campuses.

The county Board of Supervisors approved Tuesday a second $10 million round of matching funds for all-inclusive playgrounds to be built at schools and parks throughout the county, including at El Carmelo and in Mountain View, Cupertino, Santa Clara and San Jose. The Magical Bridge Foundation, which built one of the country's first inclusive playgrounds at Palo Alto's Mitchell Park in 2015, is working closely with the Palo Alto school district on the design for the El Carmelo playground, said Executive Director Jill Asher.

The groundbreaking playgrounds are designed to include children and parents with physical or cognitive disabilities, with careful consideration paid to smooth surfacing; custom climbing, sliding, swinging and spinning zones that improve balance, spatial orientation, focus and motor skills; and spaces that encourage quiet play.

"It's gratifying, and frankly, it's just the right thing to do — to provide all-inclusive places to play and socialize," said Santa Clara County Board President Joe Simitian. "I'm so pleased that our County stepped up to help create more of these innovative playgrounds for all."

The school board unanimously approved in October a proposal to apply for matching grants from the county for a playground at El Carmelo. The district's share, $200,000, will be funded through the Strong Schools Bond reserve.

El Carmelo is the second Palo Alto Unified school to receive funds from the county to build an inclusive playground. Addison Elementary School secured a $300,000 matching grant earlier this year to build a "reduced" scope playground that organizers hoped would serve as a model for other school districts.

In previous discussions, board members have expressed a commitment to building inclusive playgrounds at all of its elementary schools.

"We have 12 elementary schools and we want to have 12 inclusive playgrounds," board member Melissa Baten Caswell said in October. "That has been our motto all along: progressive parity."

In 2017, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a plan proposed by Simitian to set aside $10 million in matching funds for all-inclusive playgrounds to be built in each of the county's five districts. This is the second funding round, which Simitian's office said is "designed to leverage additional funds from cities, school districts, philanthropies, and individual donors."

More than 10,000 children in Santa Clara County have "major disabilities" and over 20,000 receive special-education services in schools, according to Simitian's office. But the fabric of the county's schools and parks don't match that reality: Except for the Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto and the Rotary PlayGarden in San Jose, parks, nor city or school playgrounds, are fully accessible to children or family members with disabilities, his office noted in an announcement.

"These grants show just how much we can do if we partner together," Simitian said. "I hope this will inspire additional partnerships in the coming years."

The Magical Bridge Foundation is building additional new playgrounds in Redwood City, Sunnyvale and is fundraising for a playground at Rengstorff Park in Mountain View, Asher said.


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21 people like this
Posted by community member
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 20, 2018 at 10:45 am

This is so wonderful! Magical Bridge is one of the best things about Palo Alto. It offers absolutely everyone a place to play, and I am so grateful this playground will be coming to El Carmelo School -- and from what I understand, it will expand to ALL our elementary and middle schools.

9 people like this
Posted by Local parent
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 20, 2018 at 1:06 pm

This is such wonderful news. Now we just need the Mountain View Whisman school district to follow suit and make their school playgrounds inclusive!

5 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 20, 2018 at 5:45 pm

Distribute these funds amongst the teachers and I GUARANTEE you have a greater impact on the kids.

6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 21, 2018 at 8:55 am

@Bob, the average PAUSD teacher makes over $100K for 10 months works. So while I'm sure they's be happy to get a one time bonus of a few hundred dollars, I think building great inclusive playgrounds will do more for our kids.

1 person likes this
Posted by Conflicted
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 23, 2018 at 7:05 am

While I am very pleased that the playground is being built, why would they choose El Carmelo? There are other schools that have larger populations of students that would benefit from this type of playground. Maybe the board should be more thoughtful in how they roll this out.

12 people like this
Posted by At $100K...Teachers Get Paid Enough
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 23, 2018 at 1:35 pm

Nice to see a new playground established for the kids. That said...

> ...the average PAUSD teacher makes over $100K for 10 months works.

So if they were to 'moonlight' for two months, most could probably afford to rent an apartment in Palo Alto. Even a part-time off hours job might suffice.

I work as a food server at a Stanford Barn restaurant in the evenings and currently share a two-bedroom apartment with another individual. During the days, I am employed as a teacher's assistant at an elementary school in the San Mateo County School District.

I am tired of hearing about those who cannot afford to live in Palo Alto. This boo-hoo story is getting old. If I can do it, anyone can.

12 people like this
Posted by Moonlighting To Pay the Bills
a resident of another community
on Dec 23, 2018 at 5:04 pm

Back when teachers made even less, I drove a gas truck for Chevron during the summer months to supplement my income. Also taught summer school but hauling petrol paid considerably more. This summertime moonlighting continued even after I had become a principle with a wife and two kids to support.

I concur with the above poster. Instead of griping about where you cannot afford to live, get a second job. Then we'll talk local economics.

Like this comment
Posted by Argh
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 23, 2018 at 9:46 pm

^ Principle or principal? Blame it on auto-correct.

2 people like this
Posted by Wu Shen
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 24, 2018 at 1:45 pm

@ At $100K...Teachers Get Paid Enough

In China university professor is paid about $275.00 per month.

American teachers who come to China to teach English paid roughly $985.00 per month.

Cannot get rich in China unless you are in manufacturing because Chinese labor costs very low. Everything made in China so if you own factory you can become millionaire and move to Palo Alto. Millions of poor people work in factories and cannot afford to leave country.

Teachers in Palo Alto make big money compared to Chinese professors. If Chinese factory workers got US minimum wage, they could live like king. Hard to do on 15 cents per hour.

12 people like this
Posted by Chinese Workers Deserve More Pay
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 24, 2018 at 5:18 pm

> If Chinese factory workers got US minimum wage, they could live like king. Hard to do on 15 cents per hour.

Why don't the Chinese factory owners pay their employees a proper living wage?

Is it because the unskilled labor pool is so vast and workers easily replaceable?

Or are the Chinese businesses simply practicing the pre-union American model of dealing with workers? In other words, robber barons who exploit cheap labor.

The Chinese workers should pull a 'Norma Jean' en masse and put an end to this practice once and for all.

16 people like this
Posted by megan frost
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 25, 2018 at 6:17 pm

megan frost is a registered user.

"If Chinese factory workers got US minimum wage, they could live like king. Hard to do on 15 cents per hour."

Have you ever reviewed the Big Mac Index from The Economist? It is a reference pertaining to cost-of living expenditures and living wages using a McDonald's hamburger as the common denominator.

A Big Mac in China goes for $2.74 while in the United States they cost $4.79.

Which means at 15 cents an hour, a Chinese worker has to work 18 hours in order to buy a Big Mac whereas an American working at the federal minimum wage $7.25/hour can buy one after about 45 minutes of work.

Global standard of living and quality of life is now being measured in hamburgers. The cheaper the price of a Big Mac, the lousier place it is to live. Not surprisingly Switzerland and Sweden at #1 and #2 charge more for a Big Mac than the United States (currently at #3).

Like this comment
Posted by Facts Matter
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 25, 2018 at 6:56 pm

Not sure how this thead morphed into Chinese wages. It’s not clear if posters are just throwing out way outdated info or what. Here’s a recent story on factory worker wages, Web Link. The gap looks even narrower under the Big Mac scale.

12 people like this
Posted by Ronald McDonald Esq.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 25, 2018 at 9:48 pm

from the CNBC article:
> Chinese factory workers are now getting paid more than ever: Average hourly wages hit $3.60 last year, spiking 64 percent from 2011...

'Average' doesn't mean that every worker in China is earning $3.60/hour. 50% of them are earning less than that. So for some, a Big Mac is still a luxury.

The comparative lower wages in India are probably OK because it is against their religion to eat beef.

10 people like this
Posted by Ronald McDonald Esq.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 25, 2018 at 10:11 pm

Forgot to add...the Chinese wages are also reflective of skill level. They are not paying people $3.60 or even $.25/hour to make 'happy meal toys'.

Even those $19.95 'as seen on TV' items require extremely cheap labor in order to maintain profitability for both the manufacturer and distributors.

You only pay extra for separate shipping and handling.

> the average PAUSD teacher makes over $100K for 10 months works.
> American teachers who come to China to teach English paid roughly $985.00 per month.
> In China university professor is paid about $275.00 per month.

This comparison partially explains why the Chinese put such a high premium on procuring a quality education in the United States and from a vocational standpoint, remaining stateside.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 26, 2018 at 9:24 am

I have nothing against these playgrounds per se, but I do have questions.

Are these PAUSD funds being spent? I thought PAUSD policy was that nothing sound be built at one elementary school that gives it better facilities than another, which is why PIE was invented.

How many students at El Carmelo need specialized playground equipment? I thought that Barron Park school had the special ed students? Wouldn't the school that has special ed students be the right one to have special playgrounds?

Just why was El Carmelo school chosen?

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