The Times West Virginian

September 29, 2013

Wheelchair ramp added at Pleasant Valley Elementary

By Kaylyn Christopher
Times West Virginian

PLEASANT VALLEY — Pleasant Valley Elementary School has completed a project that will make the school more handicap accessible.

The installation of a wheelchair ramp now provides easier access to the school’s playground.

Susan Corley, a teacher at Pleasant Valley, said the PTO raised the money for the project. A team of engineers designed the blueprints, and the construction was completed by local contractors.

“It turned out beautifully,” Corley said.

While the ramp is for all students at the school, Corley said students with physical handicaps will especially benefit from the project.

“We do have one student who is in a wheelchair, and she can make it down to the playground now and participate in recess activities” Corley said. “Now she’s able to do things like the other children.”

Despite the effort made by the school, however, the improvement does not guarantee that students with handicaps will be able to remain enrolled at Pleasant Valley.

Because the school is divided into multiple levels with many sets of stairs, it is not 100 percent compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In cases where a student’s school cannot meet all of his or her needs, the board of education is required to make the necessary accommodations.

“If the school in an attendance area where a child lives is not suitable for whatever reason, whether it’s due to a physical handicap or other specific needs, if those needs can be met at another school we provide those accommodations,” Superintendent of Schools Gary Price said.

According to Price, the necessary transportation would be provided to students who fall into that category. Price said there is at least one elementary, middle and high school in each attendance area that is on one level and is handicap accessible.

Schools in the county that are 100 percent ADA compliant include Monongah Elementary, Blackshere Elementary, Watson Elementary, White Hall Elementary, East Dale Elementary, Barrackville Elementary and Middle School, West Fairmont Middle School, East Fairmont High School, Fairmont Senior High School and North Marion High School.

Price said that once the new East Fairmont Middle School is completed, it, too, will be 100 percent ADA compliant.

Corley said that while she wishes all students with handicaps could stay enrolled in their home schools, financial reasons and other factors play a role in the matter.

According to Price, the physical structure of many of the school buildings pose significant challenges to the possibility of them becoming ADA compliant.

“Not only is it not financially feasible, but sometimes it’s not even physically possible to make a school accessible,” Price said. “The school may be on many different levels with different sets of stairs, and that makes it difficult for a student to get from one area of a school to another.”

Price said that because there is such a small percentage of students who require such accommodations, providing an alternative school and transportation to that location is the most realistic and logical answer.

“Sometimes it’s not even beyond just the financial consideration; it’s not feasible to even attempt it,” Price said.

Email Kaylyn Christopher at kchristopher@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @KChristopherTWV.