The Lineham School, an integrated pre-school program housed in the Exeter-West Greenwich Regional School District, has grown in many ways over the past five years, including undergoing an intensive program self-assessment where the school identified and set important health and safety, and quality improvement goals.

One proposed area for improvement included the outdoor play space. An Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale report (ECERS) identified specific weaknesses in playground safety. This assessment allowed administrators to successfully apply to LISC for a Race to the Top - Early Learning Facility Planning Grant that enabled them to conduct a playground safety audit and receive a conceptual plan for addressing hazards. One major concern was that the play space was only accessible by crossing a driveway and climbing up a set of concrete stairs. Another issue was that some of the previously existing play equipment was not age appropriate for the 3-5 year olds. The space also lacked a variety of play opportunities for children with special needs.

Identifying these issues early on allowed the school district to allocate and apply for other sources of funding in addition to the LISC funded facility grants, such as the RIDE School Business Authority grant for safety-related work. Since the goal of improving the playground had been well-established as part of a larger improvement initiative, pieces of this project also were included in the district’s previously developed 2016 Capital Improvement Plan. Improvements to the space include: re-locating the play space closer to the facility and installing a new gate and fencing, allowing children to have direct access from their building; constructing ADA-compliant pathways to and around the whole playground; and adding a variety of new play elements including an area and path for ride-on toys, an art and music space, sand and water play, age-appropriate climbing opportunities, and natural elements (which also will increase shade in the area).

With a total project cost of $200,000, the school successfully utilized multiple streams of funding, including $65,000 of Race to the Top Early Learning Facility Planning and Capital Grant funds awarded through LISC, to re-create their outdoor environment to be safe and stimulating for all early learners.Congratulations to the Mildred E. Lineham School who recently held their celebratory ribbon cutting ceremony! We were thrilled to play a role in this project!