Accessibility by Design
Manteca Unified's Facilities Team is Shaping a Future for All Students
With Manteca Unified’s expanded focus on equity and access, our Facilities team is taking an even closer look at how projects, including the design process, are an opportunity to be deliberately inclusive to all students with various needs.
“When I took on this role, what I found was that there is equity work being done, but it’s not always recognized,” shared Dr. Francine Baird, Director of Equity and Access. “With Facilities, we’re working to showcase the equity work throughout the district with our construction and maintenance staff – who are the ‘boots on the ground’ when it comes to school facilities – and how the work they do supports inclusion, access, and safety for all students in ways not necessarily realized.”
While modernization and renovation decisions are made primarily on the baseline age and condition of the school site, linking inclusivity and accessibility is how you meet the needs of equitable education. This includes planning for major projects such as new resource centers in schools to have space for additional supports like speech therapy. While the Facilities and Operations department takes the lead on District projects, they also work closely with a school site specific planning committee that helps them understand the needs of the site’s students.
MUSD’s recent playground updates, including the project at Golden West Elementary, are excellent examples of designing with the abilities of all students in mind. In addition to new play equipment and shade structures, the project included artificial turf ground covering and play elements that are accessible from the ground to accommodate any students with mobility limitations, including students who use wheelchairs.
Even with smaller-scale projects, such as HVAC (heating and air) repairs, thoughtful planning considering student need is at the forefront. Special education and early education classrooms are likely prioritized since these students are more likely to be impacted by extreme temperatures.
“Our department tends to focus on what is tangible and known, such as buildings and physical structures, the ‘sticks and bricks’,” said Aaron Bowers, Director of Facilities and Operations. “When we step back and look at the projects we build, we get to see our work making a real impact on both school culture and individual students, which is the goal from the beginning of the planning process. We have a lot to be proud of!”
Check out this video on accessible playgrounds!