New playgrounds for two of Penticton’s Middle Schools are on the way, and may be in place before the end of the next school year.
In September, the province announced a new $8 million capital program aimed at building, upgrading or replacing playgrounds at schools throughout the province. The $8 million will be disbursed over the course of two years, with the first round of funding directed to schools without any playground.
McNicoll Park and Skaha Lake middle schools were both listed as recipients of $50,000 grants, the only schools in the district that did not have any form of playground, according to Doug Gorcak, director of facilities for the school district. At their November board meeting, the Okanagan Skaha School District approved a capital projects bylaw for $100,000, allowing planning for the playground projects to move ahead.
“Because we didn’t know actually when the funding was going to come out, we started some preliminary discussions with both schools as to what type of product they would like and when they would like to go forward,” said Gorcak.
That process included things topics like placement so the playground can be supervised by staff during school hours and by the RCMP after hours. But also important, Gorcak said, was discussions about the best type of equipment to select for the older students at the middle schools.
“It is no longer going to be a slide and a set of swings so much as something that is going to be challenging for that older group of students,” said Gorcak. “What most of the playground manufacturers are pointing this older age group to is much more of what we have at KVR (Middle School), where it is a climbing structure, you can get a lot of kids on. It’s not the slides and the poles that you go up and down.”
Plans at Skaha Lake Middle School are a little farther ahead than at McNicoll Park. According to Gorcak, planners at SLMS have already chosen a location and the piece of equipment they would like.
Linda van Alphen raised some concerns about the cost of the foundations for the equipment, noting that they had been as high as $20,000 for other playgrounds in the district. Gorcak agreed that the $50,000 has to cover all the costs, including installation.
“A good rule is thumb is that 40 per cent is for installation, 60 per cent for the piece of playground equipment,” he said. That, he continued, is what they outlined to that schools for selecting the playground; of the $50,000, they only have about $30,000 to spend on actual equipment.
“At this point, we will go forward with putting those pieces out to tender, so that we get the proper value for our dollar,” he said, adding that he hopes to begin construction in the spring.
“Once we have suitable ground conditions, we will start digging,” said Gorcak, who is also looking forward to the disbursement of the remaining $6 million of funding. “We feel we have a couple of other schools we think will be eligible for that, so we are hoping to make some plans for that in connection.”