Friday, 23 June 2017 08:00

New and replacement schools receive funding for playgrounds

Written by  Demi Knight
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A new plan has been set underway for Alberta school playgrounds to release parents from the burden of fundraising.


Part of Alberta’s new capital plan of $20 million is set to filter funds to school playgrounds throughout the province over the next four years.
This plan aims to provide schools with grants of up to $250,000 to support the construction of playgrounds to new and replacement schools throughout the province.
Premier Rachel Notley says these playground grants are vital to each community’s vibrancy.
“We know that playgrounds not only benefit the students who get to use them, but they serve the community as a whole. They are hubs where parents and children meet and play together. Our government believes playgrounds are extremely important to local communities and that is why we are funding them to make life better and more affordable for Albertans.”
With more than 50 schools being announced to receive this funding so far, many other schools announced in 2018 will also be eligible.
To qualify for the funding, the new schools must have Kindergarten to Grade 6 programming approved in the 2017-18 fiscal year and beyond.
For schools receiving the grant for replacement funding they must be Kindergarten to Grade 6 with programming approved in the 2017-18 fiscal year and beyond, where the replacement school is being built upon a new site without an already existing playground.
The grant is also open to schools with K-6 approved in the 2014-15 fiscal year that don’t already have a playground on the premises.
With these limitations in mind, schools across the province in Medicine Hat, Red Deer, Calgary and Edmonton will see the positive effects of this new funding. However, rural schools throughout the province may not reap the same benefits.
Lindsay Harvey, press secretary for the Ministry of Education, says the focus recently has been placed upon urban schools for this project that see more student enrolment increases than others in the province.          
“Not all areas of the province are experiencing growth at the same rate. A number of areas exist within the province where student enrolment continues to increase significantly. In Alberta, major student growth is focused primarily in large urban centres for example Calgary, Edmonton and surrounding areas.”
Harvey does say however, the rural communities are not missing out and do receive provincially-funded projects of their own that add to their schools’ value such as modernizations. These modernization projects in turn help to ensure students are learning in healthy and safe environments that provide the same opportunities for learning and growth as the new schools being built.
“While many rural communities aren’t seeing increased student enrolment, communities still receive provincially-funded school projects. Rural students often benefit from replacement schools and major modernization projects that dramatically transform their schools.”
With the government’s primary focus on recently-announced schools and replacement schools for this project, schools within rural communities such as Magrath and Stirling do not qualify as they are currently undergoing modernizations and are not new or replacements being built on a new site without an existing playground.
Since the government has only a finite amount of resources available to them for such programs, this new Alberta Education Initiative doesn’t have the funding available to offer grants to schools with already-existing playgrounds.
Harvey however does say rural areas and all communities looking to upgrade their playgrounds can still apply for funding through a different method.
“If a community wants to upgrade or replace an existing playground, they are able to apply for the Community Facility Enhancement Program grant offered through Alberta Culture and Tourism,” says Harvey.
Although the thought may occur that funding may also be limited for upgrading existing playgrounds through Alberta Culture and Tourism, the government is hoping this new plan will take some of the burden off this program and instead allow them to filter more funding to existing playgrounds.
“We expect the Alberta Education playground grant — a $20-million commitment over four years — will help to free-up funding through Culture and Tourism’s Community Facility Enhancement Program for parents fundraising to replace or upgrade an existing playground,” says Harvey.
Any community or school looking to help benefit their locals by upgrading their playgrounds are encouraged  to apply for the Community Facility Enhancement Program Grant by following the link: https://www.culture tourism.alberta.ca/community/community-grants/community-facility-enhancement-program/.

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