The provincial government is reimbursing 13 Vancouver parent groups a total of more than $380,000 for playgrounds they’ve raised money to install.
The news comes three months after the Office of the Premier announced $8 million for playgrounds at B.C. schools. Vancouver schools were not included in the initial round of funding awarded in September. It totalled $2.2 million for 44 schools. This latest funding round sees $2.4 million go to 102 schools in 31 school districts with one more funding phase to go.
Vancouver school parent groups being handed cash in the announcement include Dr. Annie B. Jamieson, Lord Selkirk and Tyee elementary schools, which each get $50,000. Renfrew elementary was granted $40,500, Sir Matthew Begbie gets $32,000, Tecumseh annex gets $30,000, Walter Moberly gets $28,000, Thunderbird gets $27,000, Sir Alexander Mackenzie gets $23,000, Southlands gets $20,000, John Norquay gets $13,000, Jules Quesnel gets $10,000, and Champlain Heights gets $8,000.
Janey Lee, a kindergarten teacher at Thunderbird elementary, was shocked to hear the government was reimbursing that school PAC $27,000.
“That’s amazing. Wow. I didn’t even know anything about this. That’s interesting how they’re doing it all of a sudden. The money is great. To me it’s something that should have been funded a long time ago,” Lee said when told about the money by the Courier. “We’re certainly grateful to have this money refunded because we can certainly use the money for other things.”
Lee spearheaded the effort to resurrect the school playground, which was torn down in 2009. She led teacher workshops during the summer months with proceeds going towards the purchase of playground equipment because the community isn’t wealthy enough to contribute much towards such expensive projects.
Thunderbird is located across from a large social housing development—some families have single parents and many have tight budgets. Only one fundraiser is held annually.
Parent groups, not school districts, pay for playgrounds. The VSB used to pay for installation, which must be done by district staff, but that contribution no ceased due to budget cuts.
Thunderbird is in the midst of installing its new equipment and Lee expects there will be a community celebration in January. But she’s still troubled by education funding.
“I feel the provincial government needs to make sure that education funding is sustained or increased every year and not cut like it’s been in the last 10 years,” she said.
The next and final phase of playground funding will total $3.6 million and will be handed to districts across B.C. for playground upgrades, repairs and replacements. High-priority projects identified by school districts will be considered for funding next fiscal year, according to the provincial government press release.
“Parent advisory councils work hard throughout the school year to raise money to support students and their learning, and it’s great to be able to give back some of their hard-earned dollars,” Education Minister George Abbott said in the release.