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School officials draw praise for response to citizen's request
Effingham County Board of Education

SPRINGFIELD — Effingham School District officials recently pounced on the opportunity to help someone in need.

During a Oct. 9 football game at Rebel Field, Hollie Phillips had to sit on a restroom floor to change the diaper of her special-needs son.

“There was nowhere else to change him,” Phillips said.

Concerned about the stadium’s shortcomings, she approached Chief  Operations Officer Ron Womack three days later and received a response within minutes.

“He said, ‘I got your message and I’ve already ordered baby-changing tables,” Phillips said. 

The good news quickly spread to the Effingham County Navigator Team Inc.,  an advocate for families with disabled children. Phillips is one of its members.

“They said, ‘That’s great. I hope we can talk to them about adult changing stations for the older ones that don’t fit on the regular changing tables,’” Phillips said. 

At that point, Phillips sent an e-mail to Superintendent Dr. Yancy Ford about the matter.

“Probably about twenty minutes later, he replied back stating that — if we told him where to order it from and what we were looking for — he would get that, too, so that everyone could participate at the stadiums for (Effingham County and South Effingham) high schools,” Phillips said. 

Ford was glad to help. 

“I was interested in us taking a look at all our athletic facilities and restrooms,” he said. “When every kid from every walk of life comes to our games or our parks, we want to accommodate them so that they feel just as welcome as anyone else.”

Ford pointed to the new facilities at the Clarence B. Morgan Complex as a model for taking care of special-needs citizens. He is interested in partnering with the Navigator Team to make sure that its needs are filled.

“I’ve always been a big fan of supporting kids with special needs,” Ford said. “I’m not an expert on it so I hope they will come to me with examples of how we can equip these restrooms so that it is accommodating for all those students. I’m just very passionate about making sure that we help those kids and make them feel welcome in a facility in Effingham County.”

The superintendent grew up next door to a special-needs family member.

“I was an integral part of his life so I have a special place in my heart to make sure that every feels welcome and everybody has accommodations that level the playing field so that it is not a burden on their parents,” Ford said. 

Ford said the restroom upgrades will be paid for with ESPLOST funds.

“With ESPLOST, you always hear about new buildings being built and new tracking being built,” Ford said. “We use that money for lots of things — computers, buses and that kind of stuff — so why not spend some of it on an item that will benefit everybody, especially those particular kids.”