MADISON (WKOW) -- A petition with two hundred signatures of parents, staff, and others urges Madison school officials to install an elevator at Kennedy Elementary School, to create access to the lunch room and other places for children, teachers and visitors with physical limitations.
Parent Carolyn Ketcham says her fourth grade son was forced to use crutches for an extended period because of a difficult-to-diagnose condition. Ketcham says his treatment at school as a result was isolating.
"If your child cannot negotiate stairs, then they need to go to another school, or they need to move classes, or they need to eat their lunch in the office. To my way of thinking, that's not reasonable accommodation," Ketcham tells 27 News.
School district officials acknowledge The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires reasonable accommodation be made for people with physical disabilities.
Madison school district business services administrator Mike Barry says steps taken at multi-floor Kennedy qualify as reasonable. "We try to eliminate the need for a student or a staff member to move vertically in the building," Barry tells 27 News.
"If we can't bring the student to the program, we bring the program to the student," Barry says.
Barry calls the petition's request for an elevator "fair," but says installing an elevator and associated building modifications could cost about $500,000. Barry says there are seven to nine other Madison schools with multi-level designs, and without elevators to facilitate access.
Barry says the Kennedy proposal can compete with other school building needs in January as district officials and school board members begin the process of assembling a capital budget.
"We make reasonable accommodations, but there's a difference between compliance and an ideal state," Barry says.
"We'd like to improve not only Kennedy, but also other schools that have these limitations," Barry tells 27 News.
Barry says the affected schools are typically older, and have yet to be tabbed for significant renovation and opportunity to upgrade access.
Barry says elevators have been installed in four district schools in the past two years.
Libby Armaza's son attends Kennedy, while her younger daughter, Andy, is in Elvejum Elementary's four year old kindergarten program. Andy Armaza has spinal muscular atrophy, a neurological condition that's severely limited her ability to walk.
Libby Armaza says the family moved into the Kennedy Elementary attendance area because of the school's reputation. Armaza tells 27 News she fears without the installation of an elevator, her daughter will remain at her fully-accessible school, and miss the opportunity to attend school with her brother.
"I just kind of assumed that we were in Madison schools, that they would be accessible."
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