EAST MILLCREEK — For students at Jean Massieu School of the Deaf and Blind Monday, the first day of school was filled with a little extra excitement as they got to play on a brand new playground.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony brought the anticipated cheers and applause at the school, 1655 E. 3300 South. But the real excitement came with the first chance to climb and twirl and take over their new playground.
"My favorite thing was watching their faces as they walked out," kindergarten teacher Aimee Breinholt said.
Many of the children had a stunned looked on their face. Others were overjoyed and filled with excitement.
When the children found out they were getting playground equipment, they requested several things, like a slide and swings. But at the top of their list — a merry-go-round.
"It's awesome," 9-year-old Joshua Kinner said. Another student, Kathryn Wallace, said she liked the merry-go-round and "going round and round."
But that wasn't the only thing the kids like to play on. "I feel really excited," 8-year-old Millie Warren said with a big smile on her face when she saw the playground. Her favorite part of the playground is the climbing bars.
The school playground has special features. It's wheelchair-accessible and has incorporated different textures on handrails to give blind students a tactile experience. The slide is even made of special metal that reduces static electricity for children with cochlear implants.
The highly anticipated ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday was put in jeopardy after taggers vandalized the new equipment, writing symbols and expletives in blue paint last week. But thanks to the volunteers, things were cleaned up for the first day of school.
Many of the students heard about the vandalism. And they were touched by all the people who helped clean up their playground and make it new again.
"I felt good inside," Millie said about the community efforts to help her school. "It made me feel really good."
"I'm really happy," Joshua said after hearing how the community rallied to restore the playground.
"I want them to feel proud of their school and to feel a sense of home here," Breinholt said. She wants the children to feel like they are a part of the community and that they are loved.
"It was heart-wrenching to hear about the vandalism, and I just couldn't image that anybody would do such a thing," said Sen. Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights, who was on the education budget committee. "The community rallied, people came over and look at this beautiful playground that we have today."
The school held several fundraising events to help pay for the playground. It raised $55,000. The Legislature added $100,000.