A group of passionate parents and teachers broke ground last weekend, pushing forward a school project nearly one year in the making.
Volunteers are installing what they call an “outdoor learning space” in École Oceanside Elementary School to accommodate the new fleet of elementary-age students who took over the former middle school last year, after a round of emotional school closures.
“When you send 500 students out to play they need something to do,” said OES Kindergarden teacher Gaynor Charnock.
“They need to be engaged, happy and learning.”
Parents describe the former play area behind the school as “a small, grassy, fenced-off spot with a concrete picnic table.”
Corry Pettigrew, mother of two, said it wasn’t ideal for children.
So teachers started asking students how they wanted to use their outdoor space and in collaboration with parents a new concept for an outdoor learning space was born.
It includes a covered stage, sandbox, pathway, music garden and monkey bars.
It comes with a price tag of around $100,000, which parents are fundraising almost entirely themselves, however they’ve had tons of community support including donated building materials, machinery and time. Two excavators were at the site throughout the B.C. Day long weekend getting the project started.
Pettigrew explains this is phase one of a two-part project that will be completed over the next five years. The second phase will focus on the field in front of the school.
She said the new space can be used by students during school hours, but also the public during non-school hours, serving as a community park for the surrounding residential area.
Pettigrew admits it was a “disheartening” start to the school year, as many parents were disgruntled about the four school closures and catchment area realignments, but this project has quickly created a sense of community amongst new parents and teachers.
“I have young kids who will be attending this school for the next 12 years,” she said. “I believe if you’re going to complain about something you should do something about it… This is something tangible.”
EOES’s parent advisory council (PAC) sub committee, the Landscape and Parks Committee, are hoping to have most of the project finished by September for the start of the school year, with the exception of the covered stage.
They are slated to complete the stage by December and planning a grand opening.
To make a financial contribution to the project, cheques can be made out to School District 69 attention to OES Landscape and Parks, or by visiting www.gofundme.com/EOESlearningspace.
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