Conrad Elementary School students will soon get to enjoy a brand new, universally accessible playground thanks to funding made available by the provincial government.
On Tuesday, May 8, Premier John Horgan announced a new playground equipment program that will provide up to $5 million each year to school districts in B.C. to buy or replace playground equipment. Twenty-six school received $90,000 this year for a standard playground, and Conrad was one of 25 schools that received $105,000 for a universally accessible playground.
“Every school has some students that are less mobile than others and you want to ensure that they have the ability to be out enjoying themselves,” said Cam McIntyre, secretary treasurer for School District 52.
The $105,000 will be use to purchase new playground equipment, and, more important, to install rubber floors that will allow individuals who have special mobility needs to use it safely.
James Warburton, director of operations at School District 52, said the province approached the districts earlier this year to ask if they had playgrounds in need of repair. Warburton said the Conrad playground was highlighted as needing new equipment and upgrades to make it more accessible.
Warburton said once the playground is complete, it will be used both by students at the school and other children in the surrounding neighbourhood.
“It’s good for the community and the school so it’s a win-win for everyone,” he said.
The provincial funding is part of an effort by the province to help relieve parents of some the responsibility for raising money to fund playground projects. Generally, this work is done through the school’s parent advisory councils (PACs).
In the Tuesday announcement, Horgan said all students deserve safe and accessible playgrounds at their schools no matter how much money their parents fundraise.
In an emailed statement, education minister Rob Fleming said he had heard from parents saying they need relief from having to raise tens of thousands of dollars for playground equipment.
“That’s a lot of bake sales and bottle drives for today’s busy parents,” he said. “Today, we’re delivering this fund to help parents, and provide access to communities that don’t have the fundraising capacity to buy the play equipment students need.”
The districts applied for funding in April 2018, with the province allocating funds for projects based on the greatest need. According to the statement, priority was given first to schools with no playground followed by schools with aging playgrounds.
The school district will meet with the Parent Advisory Committee to decide what equipment should be purchased for the playground and which contractor will be selected for the job. Warburton said they will settle on a timeline for the construction of the new playground by the end of June.