Cedar Chapel Special School Eyes Courtyard Renovation

Cedar Chapel Special School Eyes Courtyard Renovation
Cedar Chapel Special School 3D 06 11

SNOW HILL – An extensive courtyard renovation will soon provide students at Cedar Chapel Special School with a new place to learn.

Just this week crews began work on the Cedar Chapel courtyard, which will be transformed from a soggy, underused space to a safe outdoor learning area.

“In the classroom we’re working on specific content and specific standards,” Principal Belinda Gulyas said. “Here they’re able to take those skills and use them in a natural, fun environment.”

Though the school has always had the courtyard, Gulyas says it’s been underused because it tended to stay wet and featured landscaping and a sidewalk that limited space. In the spring of 2015, school leaders decided to begin fundraising to hire a contractor to improve the large courtyard. They dedicated a portion of the proceeds from Cedar Chapel’s annual Bowl-a-thon to the cause and things took off from there. Countless community groups, nonprofits and local residents provided funding for the project. The school also hosted a variety of special events to raise money.

In the meantime, Gulyas spoke to contractors about the courtyard. The school settled on one that had done projects for Ronald McDonald House and The Benedictine School.

“We found a great playground company that’s worked with schools similar to us,” she said.

Gulyas said the immense level of community support the project received made fundraising a quick task. In little more than a year, the school raised the $32,000 needed for the base of the courtyard.

“It’s probably the most Cedar Chapel has raised in the history of Cedar Chapel,” Gulyas said.

Nevertheless, the school needs to find a bit more to complete the project. While the $32,000 will fund the installation of a special rubberized flooring that will be soft and safe for the school’s students, there are also plans to erect a swing and add an outdoor chalkboard and other learning tools to the courtyard. It will cost $10,000, half of which still needs to be raised.

“The Jenkins Foundation gave us $5,000,” Gulyas said.

The swing, she explained, will sit under a shade structure so that it can be used throughout the day. The school already uses swings in occupational therapy and having one in the courtyard will provide students with a way to release energy before beginning tricky lessons.

“Group lessons especially are tough for some of our kids,” Gulyas said.

The floor of the courtyard is expected to be complete next week and Gulyas hopes to have the rest of the courtyard completed as soon as the final $5,000 is raised. She’s thrilled with the support the school has already received.

“I didn’t think we’d do it this quickly,” she said. “We’re so excited.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.