Students at two Penticton middle schools may soon see new playground facilities springing up on their school grounds as the Okanagan Skaha School District gets a share of a new provincial funding program.
McNicoll Park and Skaha middle schools were both listed as recipients of $50,000 grants, part of $8 million the provincial government is releasing over the course of the next two years to build, upgrade or replace playgrounds at schools throughout the province.
The two schools were submitted to the Ministry of Education as being the only schools in the district that did not have any form of playground, said Doug Gorcak, director of facilities for the school district.
“The number one priority was schools without any playground equipment,” said Gorcak.
The province’s intent with distributing the playground funding is to ensure that every public elementary school, and every middle school that wants one, gets a playground for their students.
“Playgrounds are much more than just a place for kids to swing, slide and climb. For many students, they are what school memories are made of, and are the centre-piece of their school,” said Penticton MLA Bill Barisoff. “These playgrounds will be an essential addition to the schools in Penticton.”
Though the equipment included in playgrounds for middle schools is different, the concept behind them isn’t, according to Gorcak. It’s all about government goals of making sure the students get a good dose of regular physical activity.
“They are encouraging kids to get out and run and play,” said Gorcak, adding that he isn’t sure yet how the province will distribute the funding.
Parent advisory councils at the schools may contribute if they want a bigger playground for the school, as those at other schools have done in the past, raising a significant share of their school’s playground costs.
According to the province, schools districts have also been asked to identify recently installed playgrounds that are eligible for reimbursement, and to prioritize those that require upgrades or replacements. Remaining funds will cover as many of those projects as possible.
In all, 44 public elementary and middle schools are receiving $50,000 for a new playground. Remaining funds will support more than a hundred upgraded, replaced or recently installed playgrounds around the province. The Ministry of Education is also planning to amend their capital project agreement with school districts to ensure that the installation of playground equipment is included when building an elementary school.