Mary Sweeney Guest Post Regarding Francis Wyman Playground

Barbara L’Heureux, Susan Astone and I had the pleasure of recently giving Dr. Conti a tour of the Francis Wyman Playgrounds and explaining the goals and progress to date of the Playground Renovation Committee. 
Front Entrance Francis Wyman Elementary School

Front Entrance Francis Wyman Elementary School


The Francis Wyman School is the largest elementary school in town, providing a stellar education to over 600 children in kindergarten through grade five.  Francis Wyman also serves as the base for the town-wide after-school program which services 125 children, the summer program with its 100 enrolled children, and an after-school program directed by the YMCA.   In order to accommodate the after-school and summer programs, the Francis Wyman School is open year round from early morning until the early evening hours.


Francis Wyman is also home to all Burlington’s physically disabled children as well as many other special needs students as part of the LABBB program.   As we explained to Dr. Conti, the first and most pressing reason the Playground Committee originally organized was to address the lack of accessible paths and play structures for the LABBB children at Francis Wyman. These children have not been able to join in playground activities for seven years due to access issues and lack of appropriate play equipment. 


In addition, because of the amount of children at Francis Wyman, the children rotate through three separate play areas on a weekly basis.  Two of these play areas are open areas consisting of either asphalt or dust and dirt.  Only the third area has play equipment, meaning that the children at Francis Wyman only play on a “true” playground one out of every three weeks. 


Upper Playground

Upper Lot Play Area


Opening the playground for children with disabilities and improving the overall safety and quality of play, while keeping costs to a minimum, were the goals of the Playground Committee.  The committee initially looked at conventional playground solutions; however, given the unique characteristics of the landscape behind Francis Wyman, the natural playground concept made the most sense.  Additionally, a natural playground is more cost effective, since the design focuses on “natural-based” materials, such as trees and paths, which are less expensive than standard metal-based structures.  You can read more about natural playgrounds at the playground designer’s website:


The new playground design includes accessible areas where all children, including those who struggle with disabilities, can play and learn together. The design incorporates a fitness challenge course, sand and water tables, and plenty of shade trees, rocks and other natural materials. 


Redesign of Upper Lot Play Area

Redesign of Upper Lot Play Area


In 2007 the Town of Burlington approved money to rectify the more serious infrastructure issues centered around safety and access.  That following spring, $51K was approved to partially fund renovation of the play areas, with the Playground Committee dedicated to raise the rest of the required money.   With the support of parents, local businesses, larger corporations, the Town of Burlington and Representative Charley Murphy’s State earmark sponsorship, the committee was able to successfully raise the money required by the end of this summer.  We especially want to thank the following corporations and committees for their very generous contributions:


  • Alterisio Construction, Inc.
  • Burlington Disability Access Commission
  • Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, Inc.
  • The Gutierrez Company
  • LABBB Collaborative
  • Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation
  • Nordblom Management Company, Inc.
  • North Suburban YMCA
  • Oracle USA
  • Susan Alterisio Cardelle Scholarship Fund, Inc.

We are excited that the dramatic and exciting playground renovations can start his fall, providing every child the opportunity to participate in a safe, enriching, and accessible play area. 

Wheelchair Appropriate Play Surface

Wheelchair Appropriate Play Surface Installed this Spring as Part of Phase I Improvements


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