The wooden play structure at Valleyview Centennial School in June 2013. To date, a project to raise money to replace the aging structure has garnered close to $25,000.
It will be at least another year before Valleyview Centennial School secures funding for a new play structure, according to Brandon School Division’s director of facilties and transportation.
Mel Clark said that despite Valleyview’s current structure failing to meet "today’s current standards for playgrounds," there’s "really no way to fast track" funding for a new one.
Since 2011, the City of Brandon and BSD have each agreed to set aside $30,000 of their annual budgets to put towards one new play structure a year. Prior to that time, school parent council members were required to raise the funds entirely on their own with help from community grants.
Last year Riverheights School received $60,000 in funding and this year Green Acres School is slated to receive the same amount, with Valleyview next on the list for 2015.
Clark said the list was based on a July 2011 safety report which showed the structure at Riverheights was most in need of a replacement.
The same safety report highlighted nine items on Valleyview’s play structure that required fixing. Repairs, including fixing sharp edges and covering up exposed bolts in several places, were then completed and categorized under "serious, non-debilitating," Clark said.
"They’re probably one of the bigger hazards we have in the school division just because of the nature in how kids play on them," Clark said, adding if a student were to get injured on a playground, the division would be held liable.
Yet in spite of the recent repairs made to the structure, its current state is "unacceptable," according to the school’s parent council chair.
Michelle Hood and two other parents have been fundraising with help from some of the school’s roughly 150 students for more than three years. So far they’ve raised close to $25,000. When combined with the Brandon School Division’s Friends of Education Fund, they now have nearly $32,000 in the bank, Hood said, but it’s still not enough.
The average play structure costs roughly $100,000 and the school’s parent council committee has its sights set on one that costs closer to $120,000.
"Our play structure has expired," Hood said. "The slide has cracked, someone’s going to cut their leg ... boards are falling off.
"We don’t have another play structure for blocks."
Recently, Hood said she approached a local financial institution seeking a $100,000 loan to put towards installing the first phase of their new play structure but said the city and BSD refused to provide a guarantee for their portion of the funding.
"If they can provide us with a simple letter to guarantee that, then we can go ahead and provide a safe structure for the kids of this neighbourhood," Hood said.
Funding is determined annually around budget time and is never a guarantee, Clark said.
"There’s only a fixed amount of dollars in the budget."
In the meantime, Clark advises Valleyview’s parent council hold on to the money they’ve raised so far and "keep fundraising."
But Hood said her and another parent council member have plans to move outside the school’s catchment area in the near future and worry this project will fall by the wayside once they leave.
"That leaves one person on the committee," Hood said. "I’m not leaving this project without completing it."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 7, 2014