General Brock elementary in running for playground grant

A Vancouver elementary school is one step closer to receiving a grant that will fund a new playground.

After three years of drawn-out Parent Advisory Council (PAC) meetings, proposal strategies and fundraising events, General Brock elementary is in the running as one of five play areas in B.C. to move into the final round of the BCAA Play Here Grant Competition. General Brock, the only competitor from Vancouver proper, now relies on the public to vote them to victory — and a revitalization worth up to $100,000.

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“There’s nothing left of the intermediate playground but a horrible slab of concrete with gouges in it from where the playground once stood,” said Dani Conrad, a parent of a second grade student at General Brock.

In April, BCAA asked British Columbians to nominate play areas throughout the province that are in need of rejuvenation. On Monday, five playgrounds from Burnaby, Vancouver Island, Thompson-Okanagan, Kootenay and Vancouver were selected. The goal of the Play Here initiative? To give B.C. children a safer place to play.

In light of a lack of funding from the Vancouver School Board and the provincial government, the Brock PAC has raised $20,000 over the past three years, turning to local families, corporate sponsors and fundraising events. However, they are still tens of thousands of dollars away from their $90,000 goal.

“If we won the grant,” Conrad said, “we would be able to put a playground in now, not in X amount of years when we fundraise enough money for it.” The money the PAC already raised would go to other needs, she added, such as paying for the Grade 7 graduation and subsidizing field trips.

Having anticipated the 2014 and 2015 demolitions of the intermediate kids’ playground and half of the primary kids’ playground, the PAC submitted a proposal to the VSB for a new playground back in 2012. The $90,000 would foot the bill for all the new play structures and equipment, the necessary labour, safety surfacing and concrete seating rails.

As the school board and provincial government are stuck between a rock and a budget shortfall, it is up to the rest of the community to finance and replace the torn down playgrounds.

The Brock playground is not alone in this problem. In the past four years alone, other schools within the VSB, such as Hastings, Waverley, John Norquay and Simon Fraser Elementary, Champlain Heights and Tillicum Annex have also relied on donations to fund new playgrounds.

VSB chairman Mike Lombardi points his finger to the Ministry of Education, which he says has left the funds needed to replace the dismantled play structures out of the budget. “As you know, we have no funding,” Lombardi said, noting a $21.8 million shortfall.

“This is a good example of the underfunding of the VSB — we can’t even afford even the basic resources to reinstate these playgrounds that we’ve dismantled,” Lombardi said.

He also noted the VSB will offer assistance in the construction of the new structures at costwhile continuing to ask the Ministry of Education for an increase in the annual $10 million grant.

Since General Brock is a neighbourhood school and has a small student population, which Conrad estimates at 220 kids, Brock is up against the odds since the other competitors may have larger extended networks to reach out to.

The public can vote for their favourite play area or proposal at until June 29. General Brock Elementary is asking for supplementary support and cash donations to be sent to the school’s office at 4860 Main St., with cheques made out to “Brock PAC.”


Note: This article has been corrected since first posted

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