Coombs residents were not happy when School District 69 decided to move playground equipment from the closed French Creek Community School to Errington Elementary School.
They were caught by surprise earlier in June when some of the equipment was dismantled, to be moved to the Errington school. They felt they were not consulted on the matter before a decision was made.
The transfer was eventually halted when residents protested to School District 69 board, which in the end came up with plan to make both communities happy. At its regular board meeting on June 23, the board decided pay for the purchase of new playground equipment at the Errington school.
The playground structure at Errington Elementary has been a safety concern particularly the equipment for the kindergarten and Grade 1 students. It is now 20 years old. Parts of the playground that were deemed unsafe were taken out but were not replaced.
The Errington Parents Advisory Council and the school had been trying to raise funds for several years and applied for grants to buy new playground equipment. They have been unsuccessful so far and had to look at other options.
The French Creek school was closed in 2014. It still has playground equipment in good condition as it was installed a couple of years before it was closed. The Errington PAC investigated whether it was feasible to transfer the playground to Errington and felt they could do it and sought the help of School District 69 trustee Julie Austin, who put out a notice that was geared towards collecting feedback from the community. However, the message failed to reach residents due to the breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The letter got out to the community on March 12 and it turned out to be incredible poor timing,” said Austin. “It butted up against spring break and then it butted up against COVID-19. I think eyes were all turned elsewhere. I have to say from my perspective as a trustee in this district I was really surprised that I didn’t receive any feedback. It was my name in the letter to contact. I was sure that some people would comment on this. But nobody received any feedback.”
Reg Nosworthy, former recreation commissioner and past Area F Parks and Open Spaces member, said Coombs residents objected because it’s the only playground park the community has. As well, the property on which the playground equipment is located has been designated as a community playground, which the Regional District of Nanaimo has been leasing from School District 69.
The RDN was informed by SD69 about the plan and gave permission to transfer the playground structure that was specifically for young children only.
School District 69 board decided to halt the transfer after listening to delegations from Coombs residents. They asked staff to look at options.
At its regular meeting on June 23, the school board decided to have the dismantled playground equipment at French Creek re-installed and supported the recommendation to fund a new playground equipment at Errington Elementary.
The board has committed $50,000, which would be drawn from the school district’s reserve and operating surplus.