Parents and students at Eric Langton elementary School got some unexpected good news Thursday, as the provincial government announced funding to help upgrade playgrounds at 80 elementary school across the province.
The downtown Maple Ridge school was awarded $50,000 towards a new playground, while Albion elementary was given $25,000 for upgrades to its playground.
Earlier this year, the playground used by Eric Langton’s primary students had to be boarded up after it was repeatedly vandalized.
“It’s been tough to see it disintegrate like it has this year,” said Eric Langton principal Jon Wheatley.
The school’s Parent Advisory Council began fundraising efforts in March. While it was originally expected to take years to raise the more than $100,000 needed to replace the playground, thanks to support from the community and the province’s funding contribution, Wheatley expects the new playground to be installed by early this fall.
“It’s all happened so quickly,” he said. “You we were going on the premise we were going to have to raise all the money our selves, so this is huge.”
The school’s PAC has already managed to raise $28,000, and the community has been quick to support the school’s efforts. The Meadowridge Rotary Club has promised to match funds raised by the school up to $35,000, and the Royal Canadian Legion’s local women’s auxiliary donated have donated $1,000 to the cause.
The new playground will be accessible for those in wheelchairs, and will be geared towards the school’s younger students.
“It will be a very interactive playground, and the only fully accessible playground in downtown Maple Ridge,” said Wheatley. “It’s a win for the school and for the community, because this is very much a community park after school hours.”
The province’s $3.3 million funding announcement was the final phase of an $8-million commitment made by the provincial government last September.
“Playground activity improves the health and learning capacity of young students in B.C.,” said Kathy Cassels, executive director of The Directorate of Agencies for School Health B.C. “By repairing, improving, and, where necessary replacing playgrounds, the B.C. government is promoting, supporting and facilitating a healthy schools approach for young learners.”