End of year thoughts- 2016- finding a path forward

As 2016 ends, I wanted to update the website with the sad reality that this year has been a tough one, for so many reasons. And to report there is one less playground in the world, thanks to the inspectors from the Massachusetts EEC. I was forced to remove the indoor playscape from the Care Center in Holyoke in November.

Here’s the email I sent out at the time:

I spent a sad afternoon in Holyoke yesterday, taking apart the playscape for the Care Center, and leaving them an empty room where a playground used to be. The Massachusetts Early Education Commission (EEC )had threatened the Care Center with legal action and loss of license to operate if the playground were still in place on November25th. Because of Thanksgiving, and my own work schedule, this was the only time I could get it done and be sure to protect the Care Center by removing the playground before the deadline. Though it has been a painful time for me, and feels like a step backwards for my project, what pains me more is what those children and teachers will face when they come back to school Monday morning. We have the EEC to thank for this. They are clearly not interested in what is best for the children at the Care Center. The playscape had been functioning exactly as was intended since August 2015. It was safe, sturdy and the children and teaches loved it. It made a difference in their lives.

I have been grateful for many letters and gestures of support from friends and colleagues, and believe me, this fight is far from over. The playscape only took a little over an hour to dis- assemble, and is safely stored in my barn until we get permission to put it back. It could be re- installed just as quickly and easily, and I will continue to fight to make that happen. I am especially grateful to Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse and State Representative Aaron Vega for attempting to intervene, and I am still hopeful we can find a path to someone at the State level who can convince the EEC to stop following policies that hurt children. The issue here is far bigger than one playground. The EEC’s excessive policies regarding how child care centers are inspected , and how these policies limit opportunities for children to climb and play and move are a huge obstacle to raising healthy children. Ask any child care provider in this state and they will agree. I know because I have met so many of them during my training sessions for teachers on early motor development over the last 10 years. These teachers and child care providers know what children need, and yet the EEC makes it impossible for them to do what needs to be done. We need more indoor playscapes, we need to get more architects and designers working on ideas for this, and we need support from our government. Instead, the State agency that purports to protect young children has made it impossible for any non- commercial manufacturer to build and install anything in the State of Massachusetts. If it is a policy issue, the policy can change. It needs to happen, so we can work together to help our children. Somehow we need to get the ear of the governor and get this issue out in the open statewide. I also want to thank Anne Teschner, director of the Care Center , for her unflagging support and efforts thus far. To all those who have written in support, I thank you. To those who have not yet written, we still need your support.
Tom Murphy
Founder- Bogin Playscape Project

Please continue to write Mayor Morse of Holyoke (morsea@holyoke.org) and Aaron Vega (Aaron.vega@mahouse.gov) to encourage their efforts to help!!

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