Jubilation at Jubilee! Playing with final plans before new monkey bars come to town…
The final plans for the new RSS playground have come together with only a few more decisions to make—and a few more dollars to raise—before the new park is built, most likely in September. As Coun. Jill Spearn told council on May 28, “One way or another, the playground is going to go in this summer.”
After a long process of consultation and decision making, the final location has been chosen “on the grass at the south end of the playground next to the baseball backstop,” said Neighbourhood of Learning (NOL) coordinator Jennifer Ellis.
Ellis has been central to the work of the playground subcommittee that was put together in October, 2011, with representatives from the PACs (Parent Advisory Councils) of all three Rossland Schools—RSS, MacLean, and École des Septs-Sommets—to make most of the decisions regarding the playground.
The final decision on the playground’s precise location on city property, however, has required the input of more players, specifically the City of Rossland and School District No. 20 (SD20).
“It was decided to locate it [next to the baseball backstop] on City property because it is cheaper than ripping up the pavement in the teacher parking lot—which is School District property—and there did not seem to be any other appropriate or logical place to put it,” Ellis explained. “There were also concerns about the degree of shading and noise if it was located in the parking lot.”
The design of the actual structure also involved a long process of consultation. The playground subcommittee assembled a wide variety of potential structure designs, everything from boulders to spaceships, and then went to school to ask the Grade 6s and 7s what they thought. The results were tallied and the subcommittee went with the kids’ decision.
The design of the actual structure also involved a process of consultation. The playground subcommittee assembled a wide variety of potential structure designs, everything from boulders to spaceships, and then went to Maclean and RSS to ask the Grade 4s through 7s what they thought.
“We took a poster in with photos of seven different potential playground structures that were in our price range and asked them to vote for their top three,” Ellis said. The results were tallied and the subcommittee went with the kid’s overwhelming preference for the Henderson structure [pictured above].
“The Henderson structure won by a landslide,” Ellis said. “Apparently they really like monkey bars and having a number of different places to play on a structure.”
Perhaps the biggest decision left for the playground subcommittee is whether to go with a professional or a “supervised volunteer” installation, Ellis said. The difference affects how much money the subcommittee must still raise.
The option for volunteer installation will require the subcommittee to find “about 20 to 25 committed people willing to show up on Friday evening, Saturday all day, and potentially Sunday” during a yet-to-be-determined weekend in September, Ellis said. Henderson—the playground company—would send a representative to direct and supervise the installation.
The volunteers would have to be somewhat familiar with tools, Ellis said, “but there are lots of roles for people who aren’t, such as helping to bring food to the volunteers. We want to make it a fun community event kind of like a barn raising.”
Such a volunteer effort would lead to savings on the order of $6700.
“If we go with a volunteer installation, we only have to raise $2700 more,” Ellis said. “If we go with a professional installation we are about $9400 short,” of the total project budget of about $96,000. The playground structure itself costs a little more than $40,000, as does the rubber surface the structure will sit on. Site preparation is another $12,000, towards which the City of Rossland will contribute $5000 in kind.
To date, the bulk of the funding has come from a Ministry of Education grant ($50,000) and a Tire Stewardship grant (about $19,000), the latter of which was tied to the use of the recycled rubber surface. SD20 threw in an additional $10,000, and Rossland’s PACs added $2500.
To raise the final funds, the subcommittee has submitted grant applications, Ellis said. “Grant applications have been made to three local granting organizations. We are hopeful they will come through with the funds.”
But just in case they don’t, Ellis said the group has three other grant opportunities up their sleeve that will be applied for if the current applications do not work out.
“We have also asked local service organizations to consider supporting the playground,” Ellis said. “No amount is too small.”
Besides trying to make sure the Grade 6 and 7 students at RSS have a play structure, the NOL committee has a number of other pots in the fire.
“We are of course trying to keep the flow of information going to the School Board, with a potential presentation to them on June 18th with regard to the Rossland Schools Survey results,” Ellis said. “We are also trying to keep the pressure on the provincial government with respect to overall shortfalls in education funding.”
To that end, NOL is “keeping their eye” on the Cowichan School District which passed a deficit budget. “Letters of support for the Cowichan School Board are currently pouring in from all over the province,” Ellis observed. The parallel with the financial difficulties faced by SD20 as a result of provincial education cuts—and, as a consequence, the threatened closure of Rossland’s schools—is not hard to miss.