LAKELAND - Students at two schools in the region will have new places to play thanks to some provincial funding.
Cold Lake Elementary School (CLES) was among 25 schools from across the province receiving funding for their playgrounds. CLES, which is part of Northern Lights Public Schools, is benefiting from $132,000 of the $5-million the provincial government dedicated to expanding funding for facilities that otherwise wouldn’t be built.
When principal Kathy McKale heard the June 2 announcement, she was over the moon that CLES was included in the list.
“We’re just absolutely thrilled with this news for our precious students, parents, staff and the entire community,” she exclaimed.
According to the province, the additional funding is intended to address playgrounds at recently built schools that are on the same sites as the original facility.
After years of teachers, parents, and board members advocating for a new building for Cold Lake Elementary, it became a reality when they opened the doors to the new school on Aug. 30, 2016. The state of the art facility includes a science lab, art room, learning commons, a music room, and a gym with a stage.
McKale said CLES had put in an application for money for the playground in the past, but weren't successful.
“We’re just ecstatic and very grateful to the provincial government and we want to thank them because this is unreal. We’re just so pleased and happy to receive this surprise. It’s like Christmas,” she told the Nouvelle.
The money will allow CLES to expand the outdoor play equipment, and allow them to “service our school, the entire community, and meet the needs of all of our precious children,” McKale stated.
“I love all my students, staff, parents, and community people dearly and working together so we can better serve the needs of our students and community as children need a place to be active, explore, have fun, and be social. I call it ‘wellness at its finest' when they’re out on a playground.”
The recently constructed school in Ashmont will also get a healthy chunk of the playground funding. The current school was built just a couple years ago, with students attending school in the new building since the fall of 2018.
"A new playground will be of great benefit to our students and our community," acknowledged Ashmont School Principal Keith Gamblin. "As I know there are other schools in our division currently fundraising for new playgrounds, I feel very fortunate that our new school construction included consideration of playgrounds."
Ashmont School is a kindergarten to Grade 12 school and falls within the St. Paul Education Regional Division (SPERD) area.
While SPERD is happy that Ashmont School will receive $245,000 for its playground, board chair Heather Starosielski said there are other schools in the area that are also in need of funding.
"We were surprised on the announcement of money for the Ashmont playground," said Starosielski. "Playgrounds historically have not been supported by provincial funding. We are of course very pleased with the funding, but we also have additional schools in the division that are in desperate need of updated playground space."
She noted that Two Hills Mennonite School and Mallaig School are two of the schools that would have also benefited from playground funding.
"(Two Hills Mennonite School) has been without adequate playground equipment since the prolonged construction that began in 2013, and Mallaig School is required to replace its outdated wooden structures," she explained.
"School councils often work for years along with their parent fundraising societies to raise enough funds to complete or update playgrounds. It would be appreciated if the playground space was recognized as an extension of the school building and adequately funded by the provincial government," said Starosielski. She added that in rural settings, the school playground is often a community playground and offers physical activity and social interaction opportunities for all children.
With files from Janice Huser, St. Paul Journal