It was just over a year ago when Floradale Public School parent council co-chairs Azalea Carlaw and Kendra Whitfield-Ellis took up a fundraising cause to get a new inclusive playground for the school and surrounding area. The 10-year-old existing structure, while starting to show its age, may not have had any significant problems that would deem it unsafe. However, legislation passed a few years ago made it so younger children could not play on certain equipment because of a height requirement.
For some time, kids at the school who were unable to use the playground were sticking to the tarmac, something parents did not want for them. To stop this from happening, Carlaw and her team went to work raising the necessary funds to get a new playground for all the kids to use.
“Essentially the school board had the regulations come into effect with height requirements for the students to be on playgrounds. So, with our existing playground that we had the younger children were not allowed on it, because it wasn’t deemed safe, and the height restrictions were exceeded with the old playground so the younger kids couldn’t go on it,” said Carlaw.
Their initial goal was about $33,000 ($30,000 plus tax) and they managed to raise most of that within about five months – right before the province went into its first lockdown. After raising $26,000 of their goal by March 2020 through sponsorship and fundraising, the organizers’ efforts ended up being put on hold.
Eventually, principal Shawn Thompson decided that it would be in the best interest of the students to spend the money they already had and put in a portion of the new playground. The decision to break the installation into two phases is something the parent council agreed to because it was important to give kids something to do, said Carlaw.
“Our principal came up with the idea of putting it into two steps, so that the children would have something visible that they can see all the hard work that we’ve done to get that [equipment] in. So, he had asked council if we would be interested in doing that, and we had agreed that that was a good idea,” she said. “Play-based learning is integral for child development [and] I think that with COVID it’s even more imperative that we give our children things to do during these unprecedented times. And I think that having an inclusive playground for Floradale and surrounding areas that’s based for all ages [is great].”
The first half of the playground installation took place in the first week of September.
One downside to splitting the installation into two parts was that the cost went up. To install the second portion of the playground – small parts Carlaw says includes a slide and a climbing web – would end up costing an additional $12,011 plus taxes.
They would not be put down for long, though, as Carlaw says they have already raised the additional funds thanks to a generous donor who gave them a very recent Christmas gift.
With the money now there, the expectation is that the playground’s second phase will be completed in early spring 2021.
The first portion of the inclusive playground is now up for kids to use, the older structure remains and is there for older kids who meet the height requirements.