It looks like kindergartener students at Linwood Public School will have to wait another year to enjoy a new playground, despite vigorous efforts of various community and school council members.
Prior to the 2016-2017 school year starting, Linwood PS principal Shawn Thompson received a report from Parks Unlimited, the outside organization hired by the Waterloo Region District School Board to check for safety on playgrounds, that two of the structures were deemed unsafe for children five and under.
That demographic of children covers the junior and senior kindergarten classes, for a total of 62 restricted students at Linwood.
According to the report, the playground had certain drops that were said to be too high for the younger students to play on.
Prior to the report, the 12-year-old structures had been inspected by the group just about once a year, Thompson said, noting that this year brought new height restrictions.
“So our kindergarten classes, when they come to school they cannot go on the playground,” said Thompson. “That means that when they go outside, we have to come up with a lot of different ideas to play. Normally, we could just have them go on the playground and have a great time, but we can’t do that anymore.”
Over the last year, Linwood PS teachers set up various outdoor activities to keep children active, including water stations, providing toys for sand boxes on site, and the board installed two outdoor chalkboards to use.
“It is not as good as a playground, but it fills the need right now,” he said.
As the board doesn’t cover the cost of playgrounds, it’s up to the individual schools, typically the parent councils, to raise the money.
In this case, the school council has stepped forward. The group decided to look into building an accessible playground that would be an all-inclusive space in the schoolyard.
After being presented with playground ideas from three different companies, the Linwood council decided on a $27,000 design that best fit the school’s goals and needs.
“Every playground had to be accessible – that is the most important thing – and our goal was to have that, obviously, and then a design geared more for younger kids,” Thompson explained, noting the new grounds will have more climbing obstacles rather than slides.
Fundraising initiatives to cover the full cost of the playground began last fall with a BBQ raising just over $1,000. Since then donations from community groups, local businesses and current students have come directly to the group through various fundraisers. They are currently sitting at just over $6,500 raised.
“People on our school council started knocking on doors here and also in Hawkesville asking for some of these business to donate money, and they have,” he said. “That is what we have done so far, it is just taking a long time.”
Initiatives have halted for now with the summer break, but will start early next year running a chocolate bar fundraiser – their largest for the year.
“We normally do it in the winter, but we are going to do it in the fall simply because we would like to get this playground in as soon as we can,” he said. “Normally we get around $6,000-$7,000 in fundraising money from that.”
The goal is to have raised enough money through the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year to have the new playground in by the end of next year.
“We are hoping to have it in by the end of next year, whether that is realistic or not I don’t know,” he said.
Until then, the onus to provide kindergarten students with activities outside will fall on the creativity of teachers.