After four years without a playground, families with students at Gordon Head Middle School in Greater Victoria School District (SD 61) are hopeful that this will be the year that the school will get a new playground.
Jasmine Haere, whose daughter just started sixth grade at Gordon Head Middle, is fighting for a new playground to be installed.
“It’s important to me to continue having a play structure available to her at middle school,” said Haere.
The provincial government Playground Equipment Program (PEP) awards 50 B.C. schools with funding for new playgrounds. The districts put forth schools that need new equipment and some are chosen to receive the new playgrounds.
Middle schools are often overlooked when it comes to new playgrounds, Haere explained, but those kids aren’t done playing. The students are between the ages of 10 and 13 and they’re not too old to play, she explained. Haere noted that a local developer provided partial funding to Royal Oak Middle School in School District 63 for a new playground that students use all the time.
Haere was part of the parent group that fought for a new playground at Torquay Elementary — one of Gordon Head Middle’s feeder schools. Through the BCAA Play Here contest, the school received a new $100,000 playground. Knowing her daughter would soon be at Gordon Head Middle which had its playground removed four years ago, Haere emailed the PEP director asking if middle schools could be considered for the funding. The director confirmed that middle schools are eligible.
Haere was told Gordon Head Middle would be considered by the district for the nomination, but in the end, SD 61 put forward Braefoot Elementary and Eagle View Elementary for the 2019 funding.
Lisa McPhail, the SD 61 communications representative, explained that the district works to utilize the PEP to bring inclusive and accessible resources to the schools in need. Many schools are considered, but only a few can be submitted for consideration, she explained.
“A priority for our district is building inclusive schools where everyone has the opportunity to learn, play and grow,” said McPhail.
Haere and the other parents are hopeful that the district will help Gordon Head Middle get a new playground this year. The parents whose children attended Gordon Head Middle’s other feeder school, Hillcrest Elementary, raised money for a new playground at their elementary school too, said Haere. Together, the parents from both feeder schools have provided about $170,000 of playground equipment to the district, she noted.
“I hope the district recognizes the community effort to play possible,” said Haere.
Haere said that if Gordon Head Middle isn’t considered for the PEP funding this year, parents from the PAC will work to fundraise the $100,000 needed for playground equipment and the installation themselves. She pointed out that it will be tough because there are only three grades at the middle school which means less people to help raise the money. But Haere’s certain people from the community would come forward to help out.
“I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t understand the value of a play structure.”
McPhail noted that the district does appreciate the efforts that the Gordon Head Middle parent community has made and that the committee did review the school’s playground while considering which schools to submit for the 2020 funding. In the end, Doncaster Elementary, Northridge Elementary and Victoria West Elementary were submitted for consideration in SD 61’s five-year capital plan as potential candidates for the inclusive playground funding.
“It is always challenging to select a limited number of schools when you have nearly 40 elementary and middle schools,” said McPhail. “However, the District will continue to consider [Gordon Head Middle]’s playground in future submissions.”