BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
The wooden play structure at Valleyview School is considered by some un-safe and is needing to be replaced.
Valleyview Centennial School and several other local schools are on a waiting list to receive funding for a new and — more importantly — safe playground structure for their students.
Concerned Valleyview parent council chair Michelle Hood says it’s only a matter of time before their play structure is deemed "unsafe."
"It’s frustrating, I live close to school and that’s the only playground close for my kids," she said. "Half the time I feel like I need to drive or walk somewhere else … so the kids in our neighbourhood have nowhere else to play and it goes for quite a ways the distance around us where there is no park to play at until you hit another school."
According to a Brandon School Division safety report done in July 2011, the playground at Valleyview will be deemed unsafe by division standards in time for the 2015-16 school year. But after noticing some loose screws and having to remove broken boards, Hood said she wants to get their play structure replaced by next summer, before the current one deteriorates any further.
"Boards are falling off. It’s made out of that wood they claim is unsafe," she said. "We have different populations in our neighbourhood that need a place to play and it’s unfortunate that these kids don’t have parks to play at and our concern is not that I need a play structure … it’s important to promote physical activity and outdoor play and have somewhere they want to be doing that."
But according to the BSD, the school won’t be obtaining its portion of funding from the school division and the City of Brandon before 2015, which could put a dent in Hood’s plan.
"We only have the funds slated during those budget years so there’s other schools and how the list was created in July 2011, it was based on the remaining useful life of the playgrounds so that’s how it was prioritized and until the playground is replaced, it’s inspected yearly and we maintain it to meet all of the required safety standards until that time," BSD assistant secretary treasurer Denis Labossiere said.
First in line for funding this year is Riverheights School, next year will be Green Acres School and then Valleyview the following year.
Labossiere adds that BSD, in partnership with the city, have both agreed to contribute one-third of the cost towards schools in need of new play structure equipment. Schools’ parent councils are then expected to raise the other third.
He said a new play structure costs roughly $100,000, meaning that the BSD and the city together will contribute around $60,000. But the overall cost of the play structure comes down to what parent council members choose for their schools.
The Valleyview parent council, which consists of three members and a few other parent volunteers, is already considering a structure that costs closer to $120,000.
So far, the group has raised nearly $15,000 over the span of two years thanks to cookbook sales, Grey Cup ticket sales, a trade show and other fundraising initiatives.
"For a small group they’ve worked very, very hard," Valleyview principal Darlene Wilkinson said. "We’re on a list of schools where we are aware that our playground structure is dated and will require replacement so as soon as the parent council became aware of that … they started to look at ways to fundraise."
But she said it all comes down to keeping the students safe.
"It’s really all about safety," she said "We’re looking at accessibility, we’re looking at a variety of different things in the structure but the biggest piece is what keeps you moving forward is having a structure safe for the kids."
Although she’s proud of the progress they’ve made, Hood said being a smaller school of only 159 students has made fundraising difficult.
"It’s a bigger challenge and I know that Brandon is exhausted with fundraising but it’s harder for a school like ours that just has less numbers to pull from," she said. "We want to see what we can do about grants and other support to beef up our money to put a play structure in next year and hopefully get the remaining funds … from the city and school division the following year."
Hood said they will continue to fundraise in hopes of reaching their goal of $30,000. She said it might even come down to them having to rely on some form of loan from a financial institution.
"I don’t know how other people are doing it but we are just receptive to any assistance because we just don’t have the luxury of turning anything away."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 20, 2013