Students at Little Cypress Intermediate try out the new Stay & Play Recreation Area on campus. This area provides a safe play environment for students who are physically or emotionally challenged and are unable to access traditional playgrounds.

Dave Rogers

For The Record

Rachel Choate, Life Skills teacher at Little Cypress Intermediate, was caught in a Catch-22 moment last Friday.

She wanted to get the big picture of the new Stay & Play Recreation Area getting its first look from her students and some of the donors that helped make it possible.

But she had to focus on the details, as in keeping an eye on her students.

And she was crying for the kids’ obvious joy. Or trying to.

“It’s kind of overwhelming now,” she said. “I want to tear up, but I’ve got to watch them and make sure everybody’s safe.”

A safe and fun play environment for the Life Skills students who are physically or emotionally challenged was the goal when Choate and school nurse Kelly Meadows first envisioned Stay & Play four years earlier.

“This started with a dream of Rachel Choate and myself back in the fall of 2012,” Meadows said before a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“When you look at the campus, there was fencing around the perimeter, but no interior fencing, so our special friends could never go outside. We needed a space for them to go out and play. It’s been a long journey.”

Meadows said sponsors have donated $69,000 so far for Stay & Play, with $21,000 more needed to provide security cameras and a pavilion to protect the children from harmful UV rays and extend the life of the playground equipment.

“We had a wonderful group of people that bough in from the very beginning,” Meadows said, singling out Granger Chevrolet, Lowe’s Toolbox for Education, Lowe’s Port Arthur. “They have been with us from the very beginning but we are blessed to have been joined by many partners along the way.”

Other donors noted on sign boards at Stay & Play include Rotary Club, Lions Club, Kiwanis, Service League of Orange, LC-M Educational Foundation and Entergy.

“The whole point of this is to join our community together, so that our kids can all have a safe place to play,” Meadows said.

“This has been designed with the needs of our special friends in mind but all of our kids will enjoy playing out there. They’ll be taken out there in small groups.

“So Stay & Play will not only exist for the children of our school. Once we’ve had opportunity to play in it a bit, we’re going to open it up to other communities that have special needs children in their family.”