Province funding $105,000 universally-accessible playground at GES

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, March 20 2019

Gabriola Elementary School will be receiving $105,000 from the BC Government to build a universally-accessible playground.

Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley said “this is great news for the kids at Gabriola Elementary.

“Play is as important as reading and math to a child’s development, and I’m happy our government is helping to ensure that all children have access to safe, adequate playground equipment.”

 Funding for the new playground comes from the new Playground Equipment Program, now in its second year. The program provides up to $5 million each year to school districts to purchase new or replacement playgrounds. This year, 20 schools are receiving $90,000 for a standard playground, and 30 schools are receiving $105,000 for a universally-accessible playground.

School districts apply for the funding by sending a list of priorities in their capital plan submissions in June each year. Playgrounds are being funded based on greatest need. Priority is given to schools where there is no playground, then to schools where the existing playground is aging. Districts that did not receive funding this year may receive funding next year if they apply for it.

The Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District Board had put Gabriola at the top of its capital plan list for such funding.

Charlene McKay, Nanaimo-Ladysmith Public Schools Board Chair, said, “The Board of Education is extremely pleased that Gabriola Elementary will be receiving funding towards a playground that students of every ability may enjoy.

“On behalf of the Board, we want to thank the BC Government for identifying the need to allocate funding for over 50 playgrounds across the province. Moving forward, school representatives along with district staff will now begin the planning and consultation process.”

The School District said there is no timeline set for groundbreaking for the new playground, or deciding where on the school grounds it would go.

McKay said Universally accessible playgrounds ensure students of all mobility are able to enjoy recreation with their peers.

The District opened an inclusive playground in 2017 at McGirr Elementary School in Nanaimo.

McKay said, “When building an accessible playground, we would not see the use of pea gravel as a surface material. We will likely see similar materials used in the project to what was used at McGirr.”

First, the District will be consulting with the GES principal, staff and members of the GES Parents Advisory Committee to determine the best course of action.

Rob Fleming, Minister of Education, said, “As a parent, I understand first-hand how tough it can be for schools and parents to find the time and volunteers to fundraise for playground equipment and activities.

“Our government is committed to improving the learning environment at BC schools - safe, fun and accessible playgrounds are very much part of delivering on this commitment. And to make this happen, parents should not have to become dedicated fundraisers in their spare time.”